Part 2: New sources of hydrogen


E3 Technologies, LLC, a young company based in Athens, Ohio, is to develop an invention to convert agricultural and commercial wastewater into hydrogen.
The firm will be developing technology pioneered at Ohio University and has been dubbed the ‘GreenBox’. E3 Technologies was founded by Geradine Botte and now runs from within the Innovation Centre which is the university’s business incubator.
E3 forwarded the technology when it recently licensed a suite of electromechanical devices and technologies developed by Botte. This move prepares the technology for commercialisation in the green energy sector.
Chief Technology Officer and Professor of Bimolecular and Chemical Engineering, Geradine Botte, said, “The ‘GreenBox is the first of many products we’ll be developing. I think we have the right team at the right time – energy and water issues are huge right now.”
‘GreenBox’ uses a patented low-energy electrolysis process to convert ammonia and urea in wastewater into hydrogen, nitrogen and pure water. The current within the device creates an electrochemical reaction that oxidises urea, turning it to carbon dioxide. This is then sequestered in the electrolyte material within the machine. In addition, the device produces hydrogen.
CEO of E3, Kent Shields, explained, “It’s a synergetic technology: By reducing emissions, you also get a free, clean source of energy. As the clean energy economy develops, this could prove an attractive energy source.”
The innovation is hoped to be particularly applicable in agriculture. Farmers must meet various guidelines for holding animal waste from hogs or cattle, this often involves creating lagoons for storage. Botte advocated the GreenBox in these scenarios. She estimated that premises with 2,000 hogs would need one GreenBox to treat the wastewater and would run off an energy efficient 5 kW – approximately the same amount of power needed in an average home.
Other applications include commercial buildings. The founder gauged that a building with 300 employees would need one unit using only 1 kW of power. E3 anticipated a reduced operational cost of eliminating ammonia from wastewater by 60%.
E3 Technologies is set to develop a larger-scale, commercial prototype in time for quarter three of 2011. Currently, the company has enjoyed investment from TechGROWTH Ohio, a support program funded through the state’s Third Frontier initiative. However the company hopes to attract additional investors and grant funding.

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