Practical Production Of Hydrogen As A Green Fuel

Innovation March 24, 2017

As you probably know, there has been quite a bit of research underway for the past few decades regarding the use of Hydrogen. Naturally, you understand that Hydrogen is most definitely a green fuel. Yet, the challenge to date has been the economical production of Hydrogen at scale.

However, ground breaking research at the Georgia Institute of Technology may well have discovered a practical solution to the production of Hydrogen. Interestingly, the Georgia Tech researchers led by Professor Andrei Fedorov are actually employing centuries old technology in their process.

Get this: the Georgia Tech team determined a way to employ internal combustion engine technology to produce Hydrogen. Specifically, the researchers added in a catalyst along with a Hydrogen separating membrane and carbon dioxide sorbent to what is in essence a four stroke engine cycle.

Incredibly, the modified four stroke engine functions remarkably similar to typical combustion engines with the exception that there is no actual combustion involved. It turns out that a key factor in this process is the variable volume that is produced by the rising and falling of a piston rising in a cylinder. In addition, there is a dedicated valve atop the cylinder that functions as a controller for the flow of gases in and out of the cylinder.

More specifically, the four stroke process starts with the intake of natural gas (methane) and steam into the cylinder as the piston strokes downward. From there, the valve closes and the piston rises which compresses the steam and methane mixture during which time the cylinder is also heated to 400 degrees Celsius.

That triggers a catalytic process in which Hydrogen and Carbon Dioxide are produced. The Hydrogen is ported away through the special membrane while the Carbon Dioxide is then mixed with the sorbent. Meanwhile, once the Hydrogen has exited the cylinder, the piston is again lowered and the Carbon Dioxide is released into the cylinder. The last stroke pushes the piston upwards again which expels the Carbon Dioxide and clears the cylinder for the next stroke. In other words, the process works by using Natural Gas as a fuel to produce Hydrogen.

This process, if proven effective at a larger scale could be utilized to produce Hydrogen directly at the point of use. For example, this process could be positioned to produce Hydrogen directly for residential fuel cells. Alternatively, this same process could be used for neighborhood power plants. In addition, this Hydrogen production process could be utilized for the fueling of Hydrogen powered buses, etc.

Bottom line: the researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a rather unique Hydrogen production technology. The next question is whether this technology can be proven effective at a larger scale.


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