Accelerated Mode of Hydrogen Production From Biomass

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Study that revealed a step ahead for efficient hydrogen production.

By: Rubina Obaid

Gasification of biomass is an advanced technology in which a controlled process is administered that involves heat, steam and oxygen to convert biomass to hydrogen and other valuable by-products, that too without combustion. Growing biomass is also responsible of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Biofuel gasification plants are being built and providing best practices to produce hydrogen which is extremely helpful in developing hydrogen economy. The process involves production of electron during the decomposition of biomass for example waste woods, which is a two stone technology that improves overall efficiency of hydrogen production.

This is one of the most promising procedures of producing hydrogen gas through biomass, which is absolutely clean, environment friendly, abundant and renewable. It also provides numerous opportunities in having great reduction in greenhouse gas emission and immense overall efficiency. Hydrogen can become one of the major sources of electric power generation and the need of transportation fuel can be met to overcome the ever rising energy demand. Apart from energy and transportation sector hydrogen gas can also be used in chemical processing and petroleum industries.

A South Korean research team which was led by Professor Jungki Ryu in the School of Energy and Chemical Engineering at UNIST presented a new research. According to that research they came up with the concept that biofuel system which uses lignin, which is found in biomass while producing hydrogen gas. Lignin is then decomposed with molybdenum (MO), it is a catalyst that accelerates the production of high value compounds and further the electrons are extracted in the whole process for effective production of hydrogen gas.

Producing hydrogen in an eco friendly way is through electrolysis of water that is H2O. High voltage is administered to the water through which hydrogen and oxygen are produced at the same time. Whereas according to current studies the oxygen generation reaction (OER) is complex and slow and the production efficiency of hydrogen gas is also low. The main reason behind production of hydrogen gas is through hydrogen ions (H+) as electrons, because in the process of oxygen evolution reaction these electrons are produced.

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Professor Ryu and his research team came up with a new biofuel system through his study. Lignin is being used in the evolved biofuel system and becomes an active donor of electrons that eventually reduces the overall inefficiency of Oxygen evolution reaction (OER). Inexpensive metal catalysts are used to break down lignin even at low temperature and electrons are extracted to produce hydrogen.

A device has been designed to move electrons from lignin, to the electrode where a hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) incurs. Through this process hydrogen can be produced with less consumption of energy than conventional procedure of water electrolysis, as there is no need of oxygen reactions that requires high energy and precious metal catalysts, said by co research team member Hyeonmyeong Oh.

Conventional method required more than 1.5 volts but this system can produce hydrogen in just 0.95 volts. In addition to this carbon mono oxide is also produced due to the lignin breakdown, which is extremely useful substance for various industrial purposes. Lignin is found as most naturally abundant biomass which is also difficult to decompose. However, molybdenum based catalyst (PMA) can be used to accelerate the process of decomposition of lignin easily at low temperature, says Research Assistant Professor Yuri Choi, the co-author of the study.

The evolved process of producing hydrogen and other valuable byproducts using less costly catalysts and utilizing less energy or voltage is a proficient mode of contraption of hydrogen gas to achieve the transformation of hydrogen economy along with efficient utilization of resource.

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