The Anonymous Widower

Hydrogen Fuel Cells Could Get A Lot Cheaper With Newly Developed Iron Catalyst

The title of this post, is the same ass that of this article on Hydrogen Fuel News.

These are the first two paragraphs.

Scientists have been looking for an alternative to precious metals such as platinum for decades, in the hopes of bringing down the cost of hydrogen fuel cells.

An alternative to a platinum catalyst that costs considerably less will help to bring down the cost of hydrogen fuel cells and of using H2 as a carbon emission-free fuel. This would make it cheaper to both produce and use H2.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo, appear to be on the road to using iron as an affordable catalyst.

This paragraph describes he structure of the catalyst.

The researchers looked to iron because of its low cost and abundance. On its own, iron does not perform as well as platinum as a catalyst, particularly because it isn’t as durable in the face of highly corrosive and oxidative environments such as those within hydrogen fuel cells. The researchers bonded four nitrogen atoms to the iron in order to overcome that barrier, followed by embedding the material within a few graphene layers “with accurate atomic control of local geometric and chemical structures,” said Wu.

Gang Wu is leading the research.

In the early 1970s, I worked with one of ICI’s catalyst experts and he said, that improvements in this area will be large in the future.

Increasingly, I see his prediction being proved right, in the varied fields, where catalysts are used.

July 13, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Welsh Firm Wins £300K BEIS Grant To Advance Hydrogen Fuel Tech

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Wales247.

This is the first two paragraphs.

A gasification pioneer aims to seal the UK’s low-carbon future after winning a Government grant worth nearly £300,000 to develop waste-to-hydrogen production technology, innovation funding specialist Catax can reveal.

Compact Syngas Solutions (CSS), based in Deeside, Wales, has secured £299,886 from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) with the help of Catax. The funding comes from the Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply 2 Programme, which is part of the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio.

Note.

  1. The objective is produce syngas or green hydrogen from waste that would normally be sent to landfill.
  2. Syngas, or synthesis gas, is a fuel gas mixture consisting primarily of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and very often some carbon dioxide.
  3. Syngas can be used as a fuel in internal combustion engines.

The name of the company; Compact Syngas Solutions could indicate that the company aim to have a compact system to produce syngas or green hydrogen.

I have come across other companies looking at waste diverted from landfill to create aviation fuel, diesel or hydrogen.

I have invested in one; Velocys, through the Stock Market, as I feel this area of technology will be big in the future.

Compact Syngas Solutions seem to have a different take. However like many other, I suspect catalysts are involved.

Conclusion

I think, this will be a company to watch.

May 23, 2022 Posted by | Energy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Affordable Blue Hydrogen Production

The title of this post, is the same as that of this page on the Shell Catalysts & Technologies web site.

This is said at the top of the page.

Natural gas producers are at a crossroads. They face a shifting regulatory landscape emphasising emissions reduction and an economic environment where cash preservation is critical. Shell Catalysts & Technologies offers resource holders a phased approach to diversifying their portfolios towards clean hydrogen fuels by leveraging proven and affordable capture technologies and catalysts.

My knowledge of advanced chemical catalysts is small, but I did work in the early 1970s on a project with one of ICI’s experts in the field and he told me some basics and how he believed that in the future some new catalysts would revolutionise chemical process engineering.

Wikipedia’s definition of catalysis, or the action of catalysts is as follows.

Catalysis is the process of increasing the rate of a chemical reaction by adding a substance known as a catalyst.

When I heard that Velocys were going to develop a catalyst-based system to turn household waste into sustainable aviation fuel, I did make a small investment in the company, as I thought the project could have legs.

Shell’s process takes natural gas and converts one molecule of methane (CH4) into two molecules of hydrogen (H2) and one of carbon dioxide (CO2) using one molecule of oxygen (O2) from the air.

In the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process, does a clever catalyst extract the carbon atom from the methane and combine it with two oxygen atoms to create a molecule of carbon dioxide? If it does, then this would leave the four atoms of hydrogen to form two molecules of H2 and the catalyst to go and repeat its magic on another methane molecule.

The video on the Shell site claims to do the conversion 10-25 % cheaper than current carbon intensive methods like steam reforming.

For every two molecules of hydrogen produced, both the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process and steam reforming will produce one molecule of carbon dioxide.

If you look at steam reforming it is an endothermic process, which means heat has to be added. The classic endothermic process is dissolving ice cubes in a glass of water.

Shell don’t say, but does their process need less energy to be added, because their clever catalyst does a lot of the work?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the reaction takes place in a liquid, with hydrogen and carbon dioxide bubbling out.

  • The two gases would be separated by using their different physical properties.
  • Carbon dioxide is heavier for a start.

Whatever Shell have done, it is probably pretty impressive and has probably taken many years to develop.

If as I suspect, it produces pure carbon dioxide, that would be an added bonus, as some uses of carbon dioxide wouldn’t want impurities.

Uses of pure carbon dioxide include.

  • Feeding it to soft fruits, flowers, salad vegetables and tomatoes growing in large greenhouses.
  • Dry ice.
  • Mineral Carbonation International can use carbon dioxide to make building products like blocks or plasterboard.
  • It can be added to concrete.

The more of the carbon dioxide that can be used rather than stored the better.

May 18, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Study Suggests Solar Energy Can Be Cleanly’ Converted Into Storable Hydrogen Fuel

The title of this post, is the same as that, as this news item from Strathclyde University.

This section entitled Green Hydrogen, describes the research.

Most hydrogen is still made from natural gas, producing greenhouse gasses, and green hydrogen production is urgently needed. Green hydrogen is produced from water using a photocatalyst – a material which drives the decomposition of water into hydrogen and oxygen using sunlight.

The study, ‘Photocatalytic overall water splitting under visible light enabled by a particulate conjugated polymer loaded with iridium’ is published in Angewandte Chemie, a journal of the German Chemical Society. It suggests that using a photocatalyst under simulated sun light facilitates the decomposition of water when loaded with an appropriate metal catalyst – in this case iridium.

When used in a fuel cell, hydrogen does not emit any greenhouse gasses at the point of use and can help decarbonise sectors such as shipping and transportation, where it can be used as a fuel, as well as in manufacturing industries.

Using this photocatalyst may not be the final solution, but I do believe from my mathematical modelling of catalysts in an unrelated application in the 1970s, that this research could lead to an affordable way to create green hydrogen.

May 6, 2022 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , , , | Leave a comment

New Catalyst Extracts Hydrogen From Hydrogen Storage Materials More Efficiently

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Tech Explorist.

These are the first two paragraphs.

Hydrogen storage is a crucial enabling technology for advancing hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. One of the ways to store hydrogen is chemically. Chemical storage allows large amounts of hydrogen stored in small volumes at ambient temperatures.

However, for the hydrogen to be useful, catalysts are needed to activate LOHCs and release the hydrogen. This process is called dehydrogenation.

LOHCs are Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers.

The article describes how scientists at the Ames Laboratory have developed a new catalyst that doesn’t use metals or additives, that works at mild temperatures and under normal atmospheric conditions.

It does seem to me that LOHCs have a future, but given the sparseness of the Wikipedia entry, their widespread use may be some years away.

February 13, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen | , | Leave a comment

Blue Hydrogen Is Not Clean Energy, Says Mining Tycoon

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on The Times.

This is the first paragraph.

Producing “blue hydrogen” from natural gas is not a clean energy source and is being wrongly promoted as one by the oil and gas industry, a billionaire mining mogul has claimed.

The mining mogul is Andrew Forrest, who is the second richest person in Australia.

I feel he is only partly right, as there are processes coming through that use a catalyst to split the hydrogen from the carbon.

But like the taxi in the picture at the top of the article with Mr. Forrest, his words are all good publicity.

Incidentally, I do believe that in a few years, we’ll have the technology to use so much carbon dioxide efficiently, that we may see gas-fired power stations used to create both energy and carbon dioxide.

November 6, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chemistry Nobel Awarded For Mirror-Image Molecules

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Two scientists have been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on building molecules that are mirror images of one another.

Strangely, I was involved in a project, when I worked at ICI, where I was trying to sort out how a reaction could be persuaded to only produce one form of a chemical. So I do understand, something about what the two scientists were trying to achieve.

The involvement in that project has left me with a belief that chemical catalysts could be one of the routes to a greener and better world.

I have invested in one company, that is developing new catalysts.

October 6, 2021 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Velocys Signs Agreement For Commercial-Scale Biomass-To-Jet Fuel In Japan

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Chemical Engineer.

I am very hopeful about Velocys, who are a UK public company, that were spun out of Oxford University and do clever things in the area of chemical catalysts.

Velocys’ Fischer-Tropsch technology does seem to be a good way of creating sustainable aviation fuel from household rubbish and biomass.

February 18, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Microwaves Could Turn Plastic Waste Into Hydrogen Fuel

This headline from this article in The Times could be the headline of the day!

Although thinking about it, it wouldn’t be a good idea to put all your plastic waste in the microwave and switch it on. It might catch fire or even worse create lots of hydrogen in your kitchen, which could be followed by a mini-Hindenburg disaster in the kitchen.

These are the introductory paragraphs.

From the yellowed bottles in landfill to the jellyfish-like bags clogging the oceans, plastics pollution is an apparently intractable problem.

Yet, chemists lament, it shouldn’t be. Within this waste there is something extremely useful, if only we could access it: hydrogen. Now a British team of scientists believes it has found a way to get at it, and do so cheaply, thanks to tiny particles of iron and microwaves.

If their system works at scale they hope it could be a way of cheaply converting useless plastic into hydrogen fuel and carbon.

Don’t we all want to believe that this impossible dream could come true?

Some Background Information

Some of the things I talk  about will be technical, so I will have a bit of a preamble.

Hydrogen; Handling And Uses

Because of pre-World War Two airships, which tended to catch fire and/or crash, hydrogen has a bad reputation.

I used to work as an instrument engineer in a hydrogen plant around 1970. To the best of my knowledge the plant I worked  in is still producing  hydrogen in the same large building at Runcorn.

Hydrogen is one of those substances, that if you handle with care, it can be one of the most useful elements in the world.

It is a fuel that burns creating a lot of energy.

The only by-product of hydrogen combustion is steam.

It is one of the feedstocks for making all types of chemicals like ethylene, fertilisers, ammonia, pharmaceuticals and a wide range of hydrocarbons.

Hydrogen is a constituent of natural gas and in my youth, it was a constituent of town gas.

Hydrogen and hydrocarbons are involved in the manufacture of a lot of plastics.

In the future, hydrogen will have even more uses like making steel and cement, and powering railway trains and locomotives, and shipping of all sizes.

Hydrocarbons

According to Wikipedia, hydrocarbons are compounds consisting entirely of atoms of hydrogen and carbon.

In a kitchen, there are several hydrocarbons.

  • If you cook by gas, you will probably be burning natural gas, which is mainly methane, which is a hydrocarbon
  • Some might use propane on a barbecue, which is another hydrocarbon.
  • I suspect you have some polythene or polyethylene, to use the correct name, in your kitchen. This common plastic is chains of ethylene molecules. Ethylene is another hydrocarbon.
  • There will also be some polypropylene, which as the name suggests is made from another hydrocarbon; propylene.

Hydrocarbons are everywhere

Plastics

I used to work in two ICI divisions; Mond at Runcorn and Plastics at Welwyn Garden City

  • The forerunners of ICI Mond Division invented polyethylene and when I worked at Runcorn, I shared an office, with one of the guys, who had been involved before the Second World War. in the development of polyethylene.
  • Plastics Division used to make several plastics and I was involved in various aspects of research plant design and production.

One day, I’ll post in this blog, some of the more interesting and funnier stories.

Many plastics are made by joining together long chains of their constituent molecules or monomer.

  • Ethylene is the monomer for polyethylene.
  • Propylene is the monomer for polypropylene.
  • Vinyl chloride is the monomer for polyvinylchloride or PVC.

So how are the chains of molecules built?

  • Polyethylene was made by ICI. by applying large amounts of pressure to ethylene gas in the presence of a catalyst.
  • They used to make polypropylene in large reaction vessels filled with oil, using another catalyst.

I suspect both processes use large quantities of energy.

Catalysts

catalyst is a substance which increases the rate of a chemical reaction.

Judging by the number of times, I find new catalysts being involved in chemical reactions, the following could be true.

  • There are processes, where better catalysts can improve yields in the production of useful chemicals.
  • There is a lot of catalyst research going on.

Much of this research in the UK, appears to be going on at Oxford University. And successfully to boot!

Velocys

It should be noted that Velocys was spun out of Oxford University, a few years ago.

This infographic shows their process.

This could be a route to net-zero carbon aviation and heavy haulage.

The beauty is that there would need to be little modification to existing aircraft and trucks.

Oxford University’s Magic Process

These paragraphs from The Times article explain their process.

The clue came in research on particles of iron, and what happens when they get really small. “There’s a fascinating problem,” Professor Edwards said. “You take a bit of metal, and you break it into smaller and smaller bits. At what stage does it stop behaving like a copy of the bigger bit?”

When the particle gets below a critical size, it turns out it’s no longer a metal in the standard sense. The electrical conductivity plummets, and its ability to absorb microwaves does the reverse, increasing by ten orders of magnitude.

Professor Edwards realised that this could be useful. “When you turn on the microwaves, these things become little hotspots of heat,” he said. When he put them in a mix of milled-up plastic, he found that they broke the bonds between the hydrogen and carbon, without the expense and mess of also heating up the plastic itself.

What is left is hydrogen gas, which can be used for fuel, and lumps of carbon nanotubes, which Professor Edwards hopes might be of a high enough grade to have a use as well. The next stage is to work with industry to find ways to scale it up.

It sounds rather amazing.

Going Large!

This article from The Times on Friday, is entitled Plastic To Be Saved From Landfill By Revolutionary Recycling Plants.

These are the two introductory paragraphs.

Thousands of tonnes of plastic waste will be turned into new plastic in Britain rather than dumped in landfill sites, incinerated or sent overseas under plans for four new plants that will use cutting-edge recycling technology.

Up to 130,000 tonnes of plastic a year will be chemically transformed in the facilities, which are to be built in Teesside, the West Midlands and Perth.

It all sounds like technology, that can transform our use of plastics.

Conclusion

In the years since I left Liverpool University in 1968 with a degree in Electrical and control Engineering, it has sometimes seemed to me, that chemistry has been a partly neglected science.

It now seems to be coming to the fore strongly.

 

October 19, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments