A team of Virginia Tech researchers has discovered a way to extract large quantities of hydrogen from any plant, a breakthrough that has the potential to bring a low-cost, environmentally friendly fuel source to the world. Until now, previous methods to produce hydrogen were expensive and created greenhouse gases.
Professor Percival Zhang and his team have succeeded in using xylose, the most abundant simple plant sugar, to produce a large quantity of hydrogen that previously was attainable only in theory. Zhang’s method can be performed using any source of biomass. This new environmentally friendly method of producing hydrogen utilizes renewable natural resources, releases almost no greenhouse gasses, and does not require costly or heavy metals.
Professor Zhang’s discovery opens the door to an inexpensive, renewable source of hydrogen.
The U.S. Department of Energy says that hydrogen fuel has the potential to dramatically reduce reliance on fossil fuels and automobile manufacturers are aggressively trying to develop vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells. Unlike gas-powered engines that spew out pollutants, the only byproduct of hydrogen fuel is water.
The discovery is a featured editor’s choice in an online version of the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, International Edition.