Stop me if you've heard the one about the eggshells who want to help make hydrogen

I will never stop being amazed by some of the future energy tech research that's going on. This story is so unusual, "out of the box" doesn't even get close. And out of the shell just sounds cheesy.

But out of the shell thinking is exactly what is going on at Ohio State University, where two researchers, L.S. Fan, Distinguished University Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at OSU, and doctoral student Mahesh Iyer, are using eggshells to help make hydrogen (and collagen, but we're not as interested in that, are we?).

The two have developed a now-patented process whereby the eggshell waste, which contains very absorbent calcium carbonate, soaks up CO2 from a reaction that produces hydrogen fuel. Absorbing the CO2 byproduct is vital to making the hydrogen manufacturing process cleaner, and calcium carbonate can capture 78 percent of carbon dioxide by weight. With a potential supply of about 455,000 tons of eggshells a year in the U.S., that's a lot of CO2 absorbed. Not enough for a full-bore hydrogen economy, Fan says, but enough to make this worth pursuing.

The problem? That hydrogen manufacturing process is the water-gas-shift reaction, and it starts with fossil fuels (like coal) that are gasified to produce carbon monoxide gas. This then combines with water and produces carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Here's where the eggshells captures the CO2, leaving you with hydrogen. Fan says, "And in the long term, we're demonstrating that carbon-based fuel sources, like coal or biomass, can be efficiently converted to hydrogen and liquid fuel. The goal is an energy conversion system that uses a dependable fossil energy source, but at the same time has very little environmental impact."

Hmm. Maybe I'll skip the omelette.

[Source: Ohio State University]

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