In Search of Cost-Effective Alternative Fuel

Published: 16th December 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th December 2014 06:00 AM   |  A+A-

BENGALURU: A research team led by C N R Rao, Linus Pauling Research Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) may soon find a cost-effective way of producing synthetic gas.

Synthetic gas, a combination of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, has the ability to generate electricity. However, producing hydrogen and carbon monoxide still remains tricky as existing methods are expensive.

The other members on the team are A Govindaraj, who is associated with JNCASR and IISc; Sunita Dey and B S Naidu, both from JNCASR.

Due to the limited supply of fossil fuels, the global demand for energy is increasing. The harmful effects of burning fossil fuels are clear and there is an urgent need to develop novel sources of energy which are clean, renewable and economical.

Hydrogen and carbon monoxide are produced by splitting water and carbon dioxide respectively. Even state-of-the-art methods of splitting them require very high temperatures and incur heavy costs.

Prof Rao and his team have found an efficient way of generating hydrogen and carbon monoxide by using lanthanum calcium manganate. This material not only produces larger amounts of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, but also achieves it at a relatively lower temperature range.

“Our material produces a significant amount of hydrogen and carbon monoxide which is more than what the current state-of-the-art materials in this field can achieve,” Prof Rao said.

This method still requires a temperature of about 1000 degree Celsius, but the octogenarian scientist believes it can be attained using solar energy.

“Solar energy and water are both are renewable resources. So, successful splitting of water and CO2 to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide by utilising solar energy in a cost-effective way is definitely important,” he said.

His team is now trying to reduce the temperature further and has already succeeded in lowering it to 900 degree Celsius.

“The current population density in India is high and there is a huge demand for energy. This kind of investigation towards an alternative energy solution has an impact on society,” said a researcher at Prof Rao’s laboratory.

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