Spoon fed

Hydrogen fuel is produced from sugar

Published: Monday 30 September 2002

could you be feeding spoonfuls of sugar to your car in the future instead of filling it with petrol? Not exactly but glucose could be a cheap source of hydrogen fuels for many things including the vehicles we drive.

Researchers say they have found a relatively effortless way to extract the clean fuel source of hydrogen from a glucose solution. Glucose can be obtained from a variety of renewable sources. "We are at the (laboratory) bench experiment stage so far," says Jim Dumesic, who leads the research team at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, usa. He noted it was far more efficient and quicker than the alternative of using bacteria to break down plant material such as maize to generate hydrogen (Reuters News Service).

The research found that heating the sugar solution to 200 c and passing it over a platinum-based catalyst broke it down into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen could then be piped off into a fuel cell -- a cleaner alternative to power cars which manufacturers hope will soon be in widespread use.

Dumesic claims the process does not produce extra carbon dioxide, as this would have been released back into the air anyway through biodegradation of the plants. The process is still at an early stage. "Our goal is to achieve a process where 25 per cent of the hydrogen would be used to heat the solution with the remaining 75 per cent free to be used as fuel," Dumesic said. At present hydrogen constitutes about half of the product from the glucose solution.

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