ARCHIVED - Biohydrogen — clean green energy
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April 08, 2008— Ottawa, Ontario
NRC researchers are busy engineering the production of hydrogen from organic wastes and crop residues. Their goal: turn low-grade waste into affordable, clean energy without producing greenhouse gases.
|This anaerobic digester on an Ontario dairy farm produces power from the farm's manure. Photo courtesy of Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs|
Today, most hydrogen is produced from natural gas, with the balance produced primarily from heavy oils, naphtha, and coal. Not only do these methods consume a lot of energy, they also produce greenhouse gases.
"Producing hydrogen from organic matter is better for the environment and requires considerably less energy than other methods," says Dr. Serge Guiot, who leads the environmental bioengineering group at the NRC Biotechnology Research Institute. "But we have to cross several hurdles to make it feasible on a large scale."
Dr. Guiot's team is trying to find the best mix of microorganisms and growth conditions to capture hydrogen from organic matter. Given that the hydrogen yield of conventional fermentation is quite limited, the team is looking at developing and optimizing microbial fuel cells assisted by a small electrical current. This approach, called biocatalyzed electrolysis, boosts the hydrogen yield after fermentation. The team is also examining a high-temperature fermentation approach to increase the hydrogen content of the synthetic gas produced by gasification, should this thermochemical technique work better for processing solid wastes, straw, wood residues, or coal.
"Our objective is to come up with biosystems that could be grouped into a multiple-stage process to capture almost all the hydrogen from the primary feedstock," notes Dr. Guiot.
Given time, this research may well lead to innovative solutions. Stay tuned.
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