A team of University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell) researchers have pioneered a new way to power electric vehicles. The new technology uses water, carbon dioxide and the metal cobalt to produce hydrogen gas on demand at a relatively low temperature and pressure.

The innovation, developed by Chemistry Department Chairman Professor David Ryan and a group of UMass Lowell students, will enable electric vehicles to run longer while maintaining zero emissions.

In an electric vehicle, the hydrogen created by the team’s method would go directly to a fuel cell, where it would mix with oxygen from the atmosphere to generate electricity and water.

The electricity would then power the system that operates the vehicle’s motor, rechargeable battery and headlights. 

“This process doesn’t store any hydrogen gas, so it’s safe and poses no transportation issues, greatly minimising the possibility of a fire or explosion,” said Professor David Ryan. 

The new technology generates hydrogen that is more than 95% pure. With increasing demand for green energy, the hydrogen market is poised to grown and estimated $199bn over the next four years, according to industry watchers.

“Hydrogen burns completely clean; it produces no carbon dioxide, only water. And, you don’t have to burn hydrogen to generate electricity. Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells, in which it combines with oxygen from the air to produce electricity at up to 85% efficiency,” said Ryan.

“Since hydrogen is not mined or pumped out the ground like fossil fuels, we have to produce it. Current methods of doing that are expensive and inefficient. This, coupled with the lack of needed infrastructure, has hampered the transition from a petroleum to hydrogen economy.”

“Our hope is that the catalytic hydrogen technology we have developed would help solve all of these challenges,” Ryan concluded. 

The researchers on the project have been awarded a provisional patient and are awaiting a full patent on the technology. In addition to the support from UMass Lowell, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Centre has provided the team with $25,000 in seed funding to help take the technology from the lab to the marketplace.

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