In the race to replace oil as a transportation fuel, researchers at Rice University are giving hydrogen a boost by introducing an economical and ecological way of generating the gas.
Their breakthrough could make hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which emit only water, competitive with electric vehicles that rely on batteries. While U.S. companies have focused on storing electricity in batteries, the Japanese government has promoted a hydrogen-based economy.
Both technologies aim to solve the same problem of how to store energy produced by renewable sources, such as wind and solar power, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The technology that comes to dominate this global competition will make or break entire industries.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, but on Earth most of it is molecularly tied to something else, like carbon in natural gas or oxygen in water. To use hydrogen as a fuel, we have to break the hydrogen molecules free and isolate them.
Jim Tour and his team of chemists and material scientists at Rice University have been working on finding a way to do this conveniently and inexpensively.
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Source: Houston Chronicle