It's long been known that the use of hydrogen has a tremendous potential both, for increasing energy efficiency and for greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But as the Virginia team write in their study, published on the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "producing it in a distributed, carbon-neutral, low-cost manner requires new technologies."
"Our new process could help end our dependence on fossil fuels," Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, explained in a statement. "Hydrogen is one of the most important biofuels of the future." Zhang and his team have already received the grant for the next phase of the research, which is to outline methods for mass production. This is where the world's simplest sugar comes in: xylose. The resulting amounts of hydrogen in the study were possible previously only in theory.
The method for production proposed by the Virginia Tech scientists releases barely any greenhouse gases and does not involve heavy metals. It also relies exclusively on processed sugars. The dirty biomass of corn stover is also a bonus as the fuel will have become readily available fresh out of the processing plants. This means it would be possible to make the sale of such fuel a local enterprise. "We have demonstrated the most important step toward a hydrogen economy - producing distributed and affordable green hydrogen from local biomass resources," Zhang says.
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