Last summer I had talked about how hydrogen on demand technology may one day be paired up with the emerging ethanol infrastructure. At that time, Ohio State University researchers discovered that using cerium oxide, calcium and cobalt will split ethanol into hydrogen cheaply and efficiently.
Now, researchers at the U. S. DOE, Yeshiva University and the University of Delaware have discovered that using platinum and rhodium on a nanoscale network of tin oxide can easily and at room temperature split the carbon atoms from the hydrogen in the ethanol. This means that hydrogen on demand can be created inside or outside the vehicle and run through a fuel cell to provide power to the wheels.
One of the reasons to reform ethanol into hydrogen is that there is already a small infrastructure in place for manufacturing, distributing and dispensing this alternative fuel and the ethanol infrastructure will be scaling up in the months and years to come. Unlike ethanol alone, hydrogen is a zero emissions fuel and provides more energy density.
One of the problems of creating fuel cell cars has always been how to manufacture, store, distribute and dispense gaseous hydrogen on a large scale. Transporting compressed gas via truck, ship or pipeline comes with it a whole host of problems.
But, transporting a hydrogen-rich liquid compound and reforming onsite, in-home or in the vehicle itself would be much less of a roadblock, on the whole. As breakthroughs in ethanol to hydrogen conversions become more commonplace so will the idea spread that this is indeed a viable solution.