Glucose Breakthrough May Power Future Cars

August 27, 2002 by Jeff Shepard

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin (Madison, WI) announced that they have found a way to extract fuel source hydrogen from a glucose solution by heating the sugar solution to 392 degrees F and passing it over a platinum-based catalyst, which breaks it down into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The method is more efficient and quicker than using bacteria to break down plant material to generate hydrogen.

The hydrogen could be piped off into a fuel cell with the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, where it could be absorbed normally by growing vegetation and transformed back into oxygen. The process does not produce extra carbon dioxide, but is still at an early stage, with much work still to be done on preventing the catalyst degrading and on improving the efficiency of the conversion process. The technology could provide a cleaner alternative for powering automobiles.

"We are at the (laboratory) bench-experiment stage so far, but it works," stated Jim Dumesic, who leads the research team at the University of Wisconsin. "The beauty of our process is that it is fairly simple, and at fairly mild temperatures, with no harmful by-products. Our goal in a perfect situation would be to achieve a process where 25 percent of the hydrogen would be used to heat the solution with the remaining 75 percent free to be used as fuel. But we are a long way from that. We are not talking about spooning glucose into your car to make it go. That is 'back to the future' stuff. We have a lot more bench work over the next few years to do to see the potential."