Researchers in Brazil have come up with a new technique that turns air-polluting landfill gas into a fuel cell to produce a clean, efficient form of energy.
Hydrogen is the next big thing in clean fossil fuel alternatives, because when fossil fuels are burned, they release carbon dioxide, which is bad, but when hydrogen is burned, the only thing it releases into the environment is water.
So now energy companies are working on developing hydrogen fuel cells for powering cars and buildings, and the source of hydrogen they’re looking at is the by-product that comes from reacting methane gas with carbon dioxide. Which suddenly makes gas-emitting rubbish dumps a very attractive prospect. “Smelly landfills are excellent sources of these gases,” says Phys.org. “Microbes living in the waste produce large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide as by-products.”
The only problem with this plan is finding an effective catalyst to speed up the methane and carbon dioxide reaction, said researcher Fabio B. Noronha from the National Institute of Technology in Brazil, according to Phys.org.
“The heart of the process for the production of hydrogen from landfill gas is the catalyst, and this can be disrupted by the presence of carbon,” Noronha explains. “Because of carbon deposition, the catalyst loses the capacity to convert the landfill gases into hydrogen.”
He said to solve the problem, his team has developed a new catalyst material that can remove the carbon as soon as it’s formed. They discovered this catalyst by looking into the catalysts used by car manufacturers to control vehicle emissions.
The researchers say they’re still working on the reaction in the lab, but their new, highly stable catalyst would be ideal for the commercial market. “As a step in that direction,” says Phys.org, “the team plans to test it on a larger scale using material from a local landfill.”