Turning Ethanol into Hydrogen--Is This Finally the Answer?

It's no secret that ethanol, while it's a decent short-term fix for rising gasoline prices and preventing further depletion of fossil fuels, isn't a long-term solution to our modern energy crisis. Burning ethanol, like burning gasoline, produces carbon dioxide--in fact, burning any sort of carbon-based fuel produces carbon dioxide--so ethanol isn't going to put a stop to global warming. Corn, the major source for fuel-grade ethanol, is also a plant that takes an incredible amount of room to grow, and there isn't enough space in this country to grow enough ethanol to power our cars and still have places to drive them.
But Lanny Schmidt, a professor at the University of Minnesota, has developed a reactor that can produce hydrogen gas from ethanol, using the ethanol to power a hydrogen fuel cell. Fuel cell technology is emission-free and shows great promise as a source of energy, but getting the highly exothermic reactions under control has prevented fuel cells from being mass marketable so far. What's even more exciting is that the team says they're close to being able to use other biomass, even grass clippings, to power the reactions. All hail the college kids--keep it up! [Source: The Minnesota Daily, and thanks again to Joel A]

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