• Feb 24, 2006
While most car manufacturers believe that hydrogen fuel cells are the long-term solution to reducing petroleum consumption and automotive air pollution, a number of problems remain unsolved at present. Two of the biggest are how to produce hydrogen efficiently, and how to store it in a vehicle.
A recent article in Wired points to a possible solution for hydrogen production-- bioengineered algae. Developed at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab, the green hydrogen generators use energy from photosynthesis to produce hydrogen. Now that the algae's energy efficiency has been pumped up to useful levels, researchers are working on increasing the efficiency of hydrogen production. Ultimately, algae farms in the desert could be used as hydrogen factories.

The storage problem is also a major obstacle, and one of the goals of the Department of Energy's FreedomCAR program is to develop a hydrogen storage material capable of holding six-percent of its total weight in hydrogen. (Given that hydrogen is the lightest element, this isn't as easy as it sounds.) Recently, researchers at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory have enjoyed promising results using carbon nanotubes as a storage medium, although considerable work will be required to make them practical for routine, rechargeable storage applications. Nonetheless, early experiments have already achieved  five-percent hydrogen storage by weight.

Looks like we may be on the road to finding two pieces of the puzzle.

[Thanks for the tips, Keith!]


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  • 13 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      The question now is not of driving car with hydrogen or methane powered car, it is of longterm survival from global warming and fuel management. If we do not develop this type of technologies soon we may have to spend our resources to capture carbondioxide from atmosphere. All including young generation should explore, develop, rectify and popularize these technologies rather than criticizing it and continue to indulge in the witchcrafts and wars.
      far jr
      • 8 Years Ago
      Hey, between hydrogen, ethanol, biodiesel, and hybrid technology, things could become quite interesting in the auto industry in the next decade.
      • 8 Years Ago
      One of the biggest headaches with hydrogen will
      be in distribution. Right now, the pumps at gas stations
      would apparently be exorbitantly expensive. Hydrogen is just not very friendly when it comes to containing it
      or moving it around. Fuelcells aren't here yet, and it's not clear when an inexpensive and long lasting one will be found, if ever. Biodiesel from algae looks to be far and away the most promising solution - the algae consumes about the same amount of CO2 that it produces when burned (for any of you out there that actually believe the CO2 hysteria these days) and can be created using zero cost wastes. A New Zealand
      company just started producing biodiesel from algae
      on a commercial basis, at a waste treament plant.
      • 8 Years Ago
      FurNit - BMW has done extensive crash testing of its H2 cars and found them just as safe as gasoline-powered cars.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Wouldn't it be simpler/more efficient to just produce biodiesel from the algae?
      • 8 Years Ago
      I want to seek your assistance to bring out my work ,i.e 'we can produce hydrogen gas with waste material ,which is cheap and simple .'
      • 8 Years Ago
      Biodiesel could be produced, but it's a half-way solution, since the goal of many companies is to convert to a hydrogen infrastructure. Biodiesel is still rather pollutive.

      It's an interesting article. I work in the biotech field, so it'll be interesting to read the final paper, whenever it turns out.
      • 8 Years Ago
      why we can not use hydrogen for generating electricity
      to give power to trains and big mills and factories for less pollution and there u do not need to transport hydrogen.
      • 8 Years Ago
      yeah...
      • 8 Years Ago
      The use of hydrogen fuel excites my imagination as a great alternative to fossil fuels. Given some of the articles I have read on this, I have to wonder why we don't see commercial use of hydrogen fuel cells, retrofitting oil or coal fired applications. A large factory would have surplus space to accommodate the generation and storage of hydrogen.

      I would also think there is an industry waiting to launch whose sole purpose is retrofitting fuel cell technology into existing steam producing devices fired by fossil fuels.

      What are the obstacles keeping this technology from taking off, aside from politics?
      • 8 Years Ago
      It's interesting to read bio-engineered algae producing hydrogen, but frankly I think hydrogen fuelled vehicles are at least a few decades away...I recenlt read a reveiw from the US department of energy web site which had concluded after much research that owing to a variety of issues - and production of hydrogen is only one of them - hydrogen fuelled vehicles is at best at the research stage...

      As pointed out by another member earlier, biodiesel from algae presents a more practical solution, that requires no change in the existing infrastructure, is "green", and most important quite possible today

      A page that provides some inputs on algae based biodiesel is : Biodiesel from Algae - Information, Resources

      Vic, Castor Oil
      • 8 Years Ago
      @ Ed S. - Hydrogen is a dangerous green house gas...much moreso then CO2....considering it's about 1% of our atmosphere.

      Guys, before you bash the "car that ran on water," there was such a thing but it didn't combust water of course, it made hydrogen from a water tank and aluminum using electrolysis, then used the hydrogen as the combustion fuel. BMW tested one in the 80's, it ran, but wasn't useful as it produces Aluminum Oxide and it's a pain to get rid of that.

      And lastly this is not the application they should be looking at....like someone said what happens when this algae gets into the ecosystem? The real application is using algae to produce methane...which it does already (at least the stinky kind of algae you find in a stagnant pond), then use that methane in a Molten Carbonate or Solid Oxide Fuel Cell to produce electricity (these FC's are large and would be statinoary power). Bingo, you have a renewable power station, as long as you keep the algae alive.
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