Biofuels researchers are working relentlessly to develop a self-sustaining technology to convert renewable carbon sources into fuel while removing carbon from our environment and water. Despite significant progress, completing the cycle using clean energy has proved difficult. Now, a group of researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has developed a system that does exactly that. The PNNL Electrocatalytic Oxidation Fuel Recovery System converts diluted waste carbon into valuable compounds, previously thought to be unrecoverable, while producing usable hydrogen. The process is carbon-neutral or carbon-negative because renewable energy is used.
The elegantly designed catalyst combines billions of tiny metal particles and an electric current to accelerate energy conversion at room temperature and pressure.
Juan A. López-Ruiz, a PNNL chemical engineer and project lead, said That current methods of treating biocrude require the use of high-pressure hydrogen, which is typically produced from natural gas. The system can generate hydrogen while treating wastewater at near-atmospheric temperatures using additional renewable energy, making it cheap and potentially carbon-neutral to operate.
The research team put the system through its motion in the lab, using a sample of wastewater from an industrial-scale biomass conversion process for more than 200 hours of continuous operation without losing efficiency. The only limitation was that the research team’s wastewater sampling was exhausted.
The patent-pending system, according to López-Ruiz, solves a number of problems that have plagued efforts to make biomass an economically viable source of renewable energy.
López-Ruiz said that although people understand how to convert biomass to fuel, they continue to struggle to make the process energy-efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable, especially in small, distributed on the scales. However, this new system is powered by electricity, which can be generated from renewable sources. It also generates its own heat and fuel to keep going. It may be able to complete the energy recovery cycle.
Clean Sustainable Electrochemical Treatment—or CleanSET—technology is available for license by other companies or municipalities to develop it for industry-specific applications in municipal wastewater treatment plants, dairy farms, breweries, chemical manufacturers, and food and beverage producers. are interested in.