Al­ter­na­tives abound in prom­ise of tech­nol­ogy

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Clean Energy -

WHILE some en­gi­neers squeeze the last drop of de­vel­op­ment out of the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine, oth­ers are work­ing on al­ter­na­tives to fos­sil fu­els.

Some com­mon al­ter­na­tive fu­els al­ready avail­able are pro­duced from agri­cul­tural crops.

Th­ese re­duce de­pen­dence on oil and pro­duce a fuel that is car­bon neu­tral — that is, they off­set the CO emit­ted by fuel when

2 burned by the car­bon diox­ide ab­sorbed while the crop is planted.

Ethanol and biodiesel are good tran­si­tion fu­els un­til tech­nol­ogy such as hy­dro­gen fuel cells can be ad­e­quately mar­keted and sup­ported by a hy­dro­gen fuel sup­ply in­fra­struc­ture.

Yet there may be an­other op­tion to the costly and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous is­sue of hy­dro­gen trans­port and stor­age ( and costly hy­dro­gen pro­duc­tion it­self), if pi­o­neer­ing re­search just an­nounced by YH Per­ci­val Zhang and his as­so­ciates from Vir­ginia Tech can be de­vel­oped fur­ther.

The re­searchers have found that high­yield hy­dro­gen pro­duc­tion in the ve­hi­cle is pos­si­ble by us­ing sug­ary car­bo­hy­drates com­bined with wa­ter and a mix­ture of enzymes.

The process in­volves starch or cel­lu­lose blended with a com­bi­na­tion of enzymes to make hy­dro­gen, and the ul­ti­mate con­ver­sion to elec­tri­cal en­ergy is claimed to be three times more ef­fi­cient than an ethanol- fed in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine.

The equiv­a­lent of a 45- litre fuel tank would hold enough starch to pro­duce 4kg of hy­dro­gen, which could pro­vide a 500km range when passed though fuel cells and con­verted to elec­tric­ity to power the car’s elec­tric mo­tor.

The out­look for such tech­nol­ogy is promis­ing, but car com­pa­nies will have plenty to do be­fore it be­comes a com­mer­cial re­al­ity.

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