Dr Erwin Reisner’s group at the Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge have developed a method to generate hydrogen from biomass using solar power. The process is both sustainable and relatively cheap to produce. It converts lignocellulose (a component of plant biomass) into gaseous hydrogen. The new technology relies on a simple photocatalytic conversion process. Catalytic nanoparticles are added to alkaline water in which the biomass is suspended. This is then placed in front of a light in the lab which mimics solar light. The solution is ideal for absorbing this light and converting the biomass into gaseous hydrogen which can then be collected from the headspace. The hydrogen is free of fuel-cell inhibitors, such as carbon monoxide, which allows it to be used for power.
With the help of Cambridge Enterprise, a UK patent application has been filed and talks are under way with a potential commercial partner.
Image credit: Paper releasing gaseous hydrogen under solar light, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge