Thursday, August 4, 2011

Green: Hydrogen From Waste

When I initially read this post from Ecofriend, I thought it would be another post about the science of obtaining hydrogen rather than a practical sustainable source that could quickly be put into service.  Well, that actually could happen.  But once you read the sources where hydrogen is coming from, you will have to agree with me that this is could actually happen.

There are six methods mentioned.  All of them are byproducts, you know, waste.  And even a few of them are waste that can be converted into hydrogen.  

Take urine and human waste that are both mentioned.  Using electrolysis, hydrogen obtained from a large scale production.  I took a look at the chemistry.  It works.  Now comes the engineering portion.  And believe me, we pee quite a bit.

And closer to home for me, Orange County, CA, UC Irvine is working with a few companies to produce hydrogen using methane, on some instance a byproduct on its own.  However, the cost is currently 4X to 5X the cost of conventional method through old fashion combustion engine.

The other methods involve use of DNA and microbes. And these methods seem more promising.  And couple with even cleaner sources of power, like wind or solar, we could have a perpetual source of hydrogen.  

Regardless of how and where hydrogen comes from, the idea is to be able to produce the element in an efficient and cost-effective method.

Also take solar power plants that use panels to convert sunlight into electricity.  The problem is that electricity production cease once the sun sets.  If excessive sunlight can be used in the production of hydrogen (like use of algae), we would have a source of power even at nights.  Such a reserve of hydrogen will help us with power generations at night.

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