This story, while technically correct, made me chuckle, especially in light of a tweet today by Mashable warmist Andrew Freidman, who was complaining about heat and humidity in NYC. Just think about what it would be like if all those taxis and private vehicles were emitting H2O (as water vapor). – more below.
Rutgers Chemists Develop Technology to Produce Clean-Burning Hydrogen Fuel
New catalyst based on carbon nanotubes may rival cost-prohibitive platinum for reactions that split water into hydrogen and oxygen
NEW BRUNSWICK – Rutgers researchers have developed a technology that could overcome a major cost barrier to make clean-burning hydrogen fuel – a fuel that could replace expensive and environmentally harmful fossil fuels.
The new technology is a novel catalyst that performs almost as well as cost-prohibitive platinum for so-called electrolysis reactions, which use electric currents to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The Rutgers technology is also far more efficient than less-expensive catalysts investigated to-date.
“Hydrogen has long been expected to play a vital role in our future energy landscapes by mitigating, if not completely eliminating, our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Tewodros (Teddy) Asefa, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the School of Arts and Sciences. “We have developed a sustainable chemical catalyst that, we hope with the right industry partner, can bring this vision to life.”
Asefa is also an associate professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the School of Engineering.
He and his colleagues based their new catalyst on carbon nanotubes – one-atom-thick sheets of carbon rolled into tubes 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.
Finding ways to make electrolysis reactions commercially viable is important because processes that make hydrogen today start with methane – itself a fossil fuel. The need to consume fossil fuel therefore negates current claims that hydrogen is a “green” fuel.
Electrolysis, however, could produce hydrogen using electricity generated by renewable sources, such as solar, wind and hydro energy, or by carbon-neutral sources, such as nuclear energy. And even if fossil fuels were used for electrolysis, the higher efficiency and better emissions controls of large power plants could give hydrogen fuel cells an advantage over less efficient and more polluting gasoline and diesel engines in millions of vehicles and other applications.
In a recent scientific paper published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Asefa and his colleagues reported that their technology, called “noble metal-free nitrogen-rich carbon nanotubes,” efficiently catalyze the hydrogen evolution reaction with activities close to that of platinum. They also function well in acidic, neutral or basic conditions, allowing them to be coupled with the best available oxygen-evolving catalysts that also play crucial roles in the water-splitting reaction.
The researchers have filed for a patent on the catalyst, which is available for licensing or research collaborations through the Rutgers Office of Technology Commercialization. The National Science Foundation funded the research.
Asefa, an expert in inorganic and materials chemistry, joined the Rutgers faculty in 2009 after four years as an assistant professor at Syracuse University. Originally from Ethiopia, he is a resident of Montgomery Township, N.J. In addition to catalysis and nanocatalysis, his research interests include novel inorganic nanomaterials and nanomaterials for biological, medical biosensing and solar cell applications.
The process described above is certainly better and less energy intensive than steam methane reforming (STR) which produces over 100 million tons of hydrogen worldwide every year.
I wrote a paper in college on the topic of replacing gasoline with hydrogen – it seemed a sensible idea then. Now, not so much.
For those that don’t know or don’t recall, the chemical reaction for combusting hydrogen is:
The result of the reaction is water and heat released from combustion, the H2O, unless condensed and trapped, will exit as water vapor into the atmosphere.
When ranked by their direct contribution to the greenhouse effect, the most important greenhouse gas compounds are:
|Water vapor and clouds||H
|36 – 72%|
|9 – 26%|
Source: Kiehl, J.T.; Kevin E. Trenberth (1997). “Earth’s annual global mean energy budget” (PDF). Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 78 (2): 197–208. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1997)078<0197:EAGMEB>2.0.CO;2
The contribution of water vapor ranges far higher than that of CO2.
Imagine in a hyrdogen powered economy, millions of vehicles emitting water vapor from tailpipes instead of CO2.
The panic over temperature from water vapor emissions, which can be double to triple the heat trapping capacity of Carbon Dioxide, would be quite something to watch.
On the plus side trapping H2O is a lot easier than trapping CO2, though in automobiles, would require carrying around all that waste water of combustion, and dumping it when you fuel up, something I have yet to see dealt with in the various Hydrogen powered combustion engines I’ve looked at. Fuel cell systems do better, since they don’t produce much in the way of water vapor, but water is dumped onto the road just the same, where it will evaporate.
Note that this fueling station recently in the news has no provision for waste-water capture:
(Reuters) – German industrial gases maker Linde opened what it said was the world’s first production line for hydrogen fueling stations on Monday, in a bid to boost support networks for eco-friendly cars.
Fuel-cell cars, which compete with electric and hybrid vehicles in a race to capture environmentally conscious drivers, use a stack of cells that combine hydrogen with oxygen in the air to generate electricity.
Their only emissions are water vapour and heat, but the technology has been held back by high costs and lack of infrastructure. Fuel-cell cars will go on sale starting at $70,000, and filling stations cost over $1 million to build.
On the back of commercial launch announcements by Toyota and Hyundai and demand in Japan, Linde started up a production facility with an initial annual capacity of 50 stations a year. Until now, it has built them one by one.
The company announced an order for 28 stations from Japanese gas trading company Iwatani, which put the first of its Linde stations into operation near Osaka on Monday, the first commercial hydrogen fueling station in Japan.
We live in interesting times.
From Wikipedia, the criticism of hydrogen powered cars is broad:
In 2008, Wired News reported that “experts say it will be 40 years or more before hydrogen has any meaningful impact on gasoline consumption or global warming, and we can’t afford to wait that long. In the meantime, fuel cells are diverting resources from more immediate solutions.” The Economist magazine, in 2008, quoted Robert Zubrin, the author of Energy Victory, as saying: “Hydrogen is ‘just about the worst possible vehicle fuel'”. The magazine noted that most hydrogen is produced through steam reformation, which creates at least as much emission of carbon per mile as some of today’s gasoline cars. On the other hand, if the hydrogen could be produced using renewable energy, “it would surely be easier simply to use this energy to charge the batteries of all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.” The Los Angeles Times wrote in 2009, “Any way you look at it, hydrogen is a lousy way to move cars.” The Washington Post asked in November 2009, “[W]hy would you want to store energy in the form of hydrogen and then use that hydrogen to produce electricity for a motor, when electrical energy is already waiting to be sucked out of sockets all over America and stored in auto batteries…?”
The Motley Fool stated in 2013 that “there are still cost-prohibitive obstacles [for hydrogen cars] relating to transportation, storage, and, most importantly, production.” The New York Times noted that there are only 10 publicly accessible hydrogen filling stations in the U.S. Volkswagen’s Rudolf Krebs said in 2013 that “no matter how excellent you make the cars themselves, the laws of physics hinder their overall efficiency. The most efficient way to convert energy to mobility is electricity.” He elaborated: “Hydrogen mobility only makes sense if you use green energy”, but … you need to convert it first into hydrogen “with low efficiencies” where “you lose about 40 percent of the initial energy”. You then must compress the hydrogen and store it under high pressure in tanks, which uses more energy. “And then you have to convert the hydrogen back to electricity in a fuel cell with another efficiency loss”. Krebs continued: “in the end, from your original 100 percent of electric energy, you end up with 30 to 40 percent.” Cox wrote in 2014 that producing hydrogen “is significantly more carbon intensive per unit of energy than coal. Mistaking fossil hydrogen from the hydraulic fracturing of shales for an environmentally sustainable energy pathway threatens to encourage energy policies that will dilute and potentially derail global efforts to head-off climate change due to the risk of diverting investment and focus from vehicle technologies that are economically compatible with renewable energy.”
The Business Insider commented:
Pure hydrogen can be industrially derived, but it takes energy. If that energy does not come from renewable sources, then fuel-cell cars are not as clean as they seem. … Another challenge is the lack of infrastructure. Gas stations need to invest in the ability to refuel hydrogen tanks before FCEVs become practical, and it’s unlikely many will do that while there are so few customers on the road today. … Compounding the lack of infrastructure is the high cost of the technology. Fuel cells are “still very, very expensive”.
UPDATE: another unintended consequence I had not considered – leakage. Keeping Hydrogen gas from leaking is quite a problem due to the molecular size being the smallest. This comment sums it up: