[Marxism] Scientists develop a prototype reactor to produce hydrogen efficiently and cheaply

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Fri Feb 13 09:01:52 MST 2004

"But how much fuel is used in the fuel-producing process ?", as Mark Jones
taught me to ask.



Scientists develop a prototype reactor to produce hydrogen efficiently and

Friday, February 13, 2004 


MINNEAPOLIS - Researchers say they have produced hydrogen from ethanol in a
prototype reactor small enough and efficient enough to heat small homes and
power cars. 

The development could help open the way for cleaner-burning technology at
home and on the road. 

Current methods of producing hydrogen from ethanol require large refineries
and copious amounts of fossil fuels, the University of Minnesota researchers

The reactor is a relatively tiny 2-foot-high apparatus of tubes and wires
that creates hydrogen from corn-based ethanol. A fuel cell, which acts like
a battery, then generates power. 

``This points to a way to make renewable hydrogen that may be economical and
available,'' said Lanny Schmidt, a chemical engineer who led the study. The
work was outlined in Friday's issue of the journal Science. 

Hydrogen power itself is hardly a new idea. Hydrogen fuel cells already
propel experimental vehicles and supply power for some buildings. NASA has
used them on spacecraft for decades. 

But hydrogen is expensive to make and uses fossil fuels. The researchers say
their reactor will produce hydrogen exclusively from ethanol and do it
cheaply enough so people can buy hydrogen fuel cells for personal use. 

They also believe their technology could be used to convert ethanol to
hydrogen at fuel stations when cars that run solely on hydrogen enter the
mass market. 

Hydrogen does not emit any pollution or greenhouse gases. But unlike oil or
coal, hydrogen must be produced - there are no natural stores of it waiting
to be pumped or dug out of the ground. 

The new technology holds economic potential for Midwest farmers, who are
leaders in the production of corn-based ethanol. 

George Sverdrup, a technology manager at the National Renewable Energy
Laboratory, said he was encouraged by the research. 

``When hydrogen takes a foothold and penetrates the marketplace, it will
probably come from a variety of sources and be produced by a variety of
techniques,'' he said. ``So this particular advance and technology that
Minnesota is reporting on would be one component in a big system.'' 

The Minnesota researchers envision people buying ethanol to power the small
fuel cell in their basements. The cell could produce 1 kilowatt of power,
nearly enough for an average home.

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