This will play a vital role in fast-tracking a transition to cleaner and more energy-efficient renewable fuels.
Professor Percival Zhang, his research team at Virginia Tech’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering and other collaborators, have discovered an effective method of extracting hydrogen from corn waste products (stover). This process involves converting cellulose and hemicellulose into transformed into glucose and xylose respectively; subsequently modified to produce hydrogen.
One of the major benefits with the aforementioned approach is how efficiently hydroen gas can be extracted from a water-based sugar solution. Thus, it could potentially lead to new business opportunities for local entrepreneurs to sell waste products that are destined for conversion into hydrogen fuel.
The study acknowledges the energy-intensive nature of splitting hydrogren atoms to obtain hydrogen gas for energy purposes.
There is a sufficient supply of corn stover to comfortably meet a commercial-scale demand of hydrogen fuel; according to a 2011 study, roughly 850 million tons of dry biomass could be collected in 2017 in the USA (which could reach over 1 billlion tons by 2022, at a 3% annual increase in energy crop yield) (1).
The next step is to upgrade the project, endeavouring to produce results that are successful at a commercial-scale.