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Making pure hydrogen from biomass

By Chemical Engineering Editorial Staff |

Professor emeritus Kiyoshi Ohtsuka and his colleagues at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan; edlinks.chemengonline.com/6514-538) have discovered a new process that produces pure Hâ‚‚ from cellulose. The process not only has nearly a 100% yield, but produces no CO or COâ‚‚, so the Hâ‚‚ product is suitable for operating fuel cells. Conventional steam reforming of hydrocarbons requires an additional shift reaction to convert CO into COâ‚‚, and then the COâ‚‚ has to be separated to produce pure Hâ‚‚. In the new process, a mixture of cellulose, aqueous NaOH solution (about 50 wt. %) and a catalyst (Ni supported on alumina) is heated at 2°C/min with steam to gradually increase the temperature from 100 to 600°C. The cellulose is first decomposed into organic acids (including formic, lactic, glycolic and acetic), which subsequently decompose completely into Hâ‚‚ and Naâ‚‚CO3 in almost 100 % yield. Ohtsuka discovered that the Ni catalyst accelerates the conversion of organic acids into Hâ‚‚ and Naâ‚‚CO3, while suppressing the formation of methane. The Naâ‚‚CO3 can be converted back to NaOH for recycling by reacting with lime. The only emissions of COâ‚‚ are from…
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