Dr. Atkins may have thought that carbs were bad for you, but Virginia Tech researchers think they could be good for your car. Y.H. Percival Zhang and his colleagues want to use sugary carbohydrates combined with water and a mixture of enzymes to produce hydrogen on the fly. The polysaccharides would be substances like starch or cellulose that would be blended with a combination of enzymes that wouldn't naturally be found together.

The enzymes would feed off the starch to get energy to split the water and produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen would be used to power a fuel cell and the water from that process would be recycled back into the enzyme process. Since the carbon dioxide is coming from biomass it is environmentally neutral. The equivalent of a twelve gallon fuel tank would hold enough starch to produce 4kg of hydrogen which could provide 300 miles of range with the latest fuel cells.

The sugar-hydrogen-fuel cell process evidently has an energy conversion rate three times higher than sugar-ethanol-internal combustion. Now they need to increase the reaction rates for the hydrogen to make it fast enough to be useful as a transport fuel and reduce the cost of the enzymes. The question is how much biomass is necessary to produce 27kg of starch? Then they have to ensure that our cars don't get to fat from all the carbs. And this hydrogen idea can't even be called an oil industry scam.

[Source: Virginia Tech]


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