Scientists have created an entirely natural and renewable method for producing hydrogen to generate electricity, which could reduce dependency on fossil fuels.
The breakthrough comes as a result of a ten year collaboration project between scientists from the University of Aberdeen, and international partner laboratories.
The scientists have created the first stable catalyst, which can completely convert ethanol – which comes from the fermentation of crops – into hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
The hydrogen produced after this process has taken place is very clean and therefore suitable for powering fuel cells (devices which convert fuels into electricity) directly, without the need for combustion.
At present, over 90 percent of the hydrogen currently generated across the globe is made using natural gas found in fossil fuels.
This method generates large amounts of carbon dioxide, increasing the risk of global warming.
The new method, which the scientists believe has the potential to be used to power homes, buildings and cars in the future, will mean that unlike traditional methods, any carbon dioxide produced will be assimilated back into the environment and used by plants to grow.
Professor Hicham Idriss, Energy Futures Chair at the University of Aberdeen who led the study said, “The production of hydrogen from renewable sources has been receiving increasing attention in the last decade. There has been considerable effort devoted to find alternative and renewable energy carriers to replace the soon to be depleted fossil fuels.”
“The catalyst we have developed is made of very small nanoparticles of metals deposited on larger nanoparticles of a support called cerium oxide, which is also used in catalytic converters in cars. At present the generation of hydrogen needed to power a midsized fuel cell can be achieved using 1kg of this catalyst.”
He added: “It’s quite feasible that we could see the use of this new type of catalysts to generate the hydrogen used in the UK in the future, if the necessary changes to public policy were implemented.”