Duke University engineers have come up with a novel method to create hydrogen that also creates nearly zero carbon monoxide in the process. The materials used are nanoparticles of gold and iron oxide (rust). In April 2013 I wondered on this blog if iron is the new platinum – and it may very well be. One also has to wonder now if gold is the new platinum?
According to Duke, “While hydrogen is ubiquitous in the environment, producing and collecting molecular hydrogen for transportation and industrial uses is expensive and complicated. Just as importantly, a byproduct of most current methods of producing hydrogen is carbon monoxide, which is toxic to humans and animals.
“The Duke engineers, using a new catalytic approach, have shown in the laboratory that they can reduce carbon monoxide levels to nearly zero in the presence of hydrogen and the harmless byproducts of carbon dioxide and water. They also demonstrated that they could produce hydrogen by reforming fuel at much lower temperatures than conventional methods, which makes it a more practical option.
“Catalysts are agents added to promote chemical reactions. In this case, the catalysts were nanoparticle combinations of gold and iron oxide (rust), but not in the traditional sense. Current methods depend on gold nanoparticles’ ability to drive the process as the sole catalyst, while the Duke researchers made both the iron oxide and the gold the focus of the catalytic process.”
Of course as with any laboratory experiment one has to wonder how easy it is to scale up a process like this for commercialization. And if this process does in fact turn out to be easily scalable, it will be worth its weight in gold.