In the past I’ve talked about using red hot steel to create hydrogen and microbial enzymes to replace platinum in fuel cells. Now, researchers at Pennsylvania State University have discovered a way to use microbes, electrolysis and a stainless steel brush to create hydrogen from organic waste.
The idea behind the stainless steel brush is to replace expensive platinum with a material that costs 80-percent less, while maintaining the same efficiency. The researchers discovered that by placement of the anode to the cathode and increasing the surface area of the stainless steal with the brush design, more hydrogen will be produced.
Microbes munch on the organic material and a small electrical charge helps to motivate the process. These microbial electrolysis cells (MECs), however, need to be scaled up in order to supply vast amounts of hydrogen outside of the laboratory setting.
Even though scaling up will be a challenge, creating a platinum-free system for producing hydrogen will be worth the effort as this will remove one more roadblock from the nationwide rollout of a hydrogen-based transportation system.