Argentine Scientists Develop Alcohol-to-Hydrogen Process

New technique will make fuel-cell vehicles more practical by allowing drivers to refuel with a familiar liquid fuel rather than hydrogen gas under high pressure

Published: 30-Dec-2004

ntine scientists have made a breakthrough in the development of affordable hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.

A group of researchers at the University of Buenos Aries' Catalytic Processes Laboratory (LPC) has created a technique that converts ethyl alcohol into hydrogen.

The technique, in which ethyl alcohol is derived from vegetable sources such as sugar cane and cereals, is potentially far cheaper than the current method of obtaining hydrogen through electrolysis.

"Hydrogen is usually obtained from natural gas, a process that gives off carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. It is also obtained from water, through electrolysis, but it is very expensive," LPC director Miguel Laborde told the EFE news agency.

Producing hydrogen from alcohol, however, also emits carbon dioxide but at a lower level.

"In addition, it is carbon that was already in the biosphere, because it comes from the vegetables used to manufacture alcohol. Therefore, it does not add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere," the scientist added.

The new technique will be more affordable because drivers would only need to fill up with alcohol at petrol stations, as opposed to relying on separate hydrogen production, compression, storage and sales facilities.

Ethanol is also advantageous as it can be manufactured anywhere that grows the appropriate raw materials.

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