Because it contains 4 atoms of hydrogen, methanol (CH4O) is generally considered a good hydrogen carrier, but has never been used in actual applications where gas is directly extracted from it and used.
A team of University of Rostock chemists discovered a way to extract hydrogen from methanol at low temperatures and ambient pressures. This is phenomenal, taking into account that so far this process needed high temperatures and pressures.
The team used a ruthenium-based catalyst to extract three of the four hydrogen molecules out of methanol. This could enable the car industry to one day allow you to fill your tank with the alcohol and run your electric motor on a hydrogen fuel cell in a much cleaner way than it’s possible right now by burning methanol.
One of the future tasks the team set itself is the capturing of carbon dioxide that results from the process of hydrogen extraction, which would make a fundamental difference in how methanol is perceived as a hydrogen carrier rather than as a fuel. The captured carbon could also be recycled and hence the fuel cell would only produce water as byproduct.
They also have to improve the speed at which the ruthenium catalyst splits the alcohol, because current speeds do not allow for a car to be powered with the hydrogen produced.