A team of UK researchers, including experts from Cardiff University’s Cardiff Catalysis Institute, have shown that significant amounts of hydrogen can be unlocked from fescue grass with the help of sunlight and a cheap catalyst.
They say it is the first time that this method has been demonstrated and could potentially lead to a sustainable way of producing hydrogen, which has potential in the renewable energy industry due to its high energy content and because it does not release toxic or greenhouse gases when it is burnt.
The team, which also includes researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, have published their findings in the Royal Society journalProceedings A.
Hydrogen is contained in enormous quantities all over in the world in water, hydrocarbons and other organic matter.
Up until now, the challenge has been devising ways of unlocking hydrogen in a cheap, efficient and sustainable way.
A promising source is the organic compound cellulose, which is a key component of plants.
The team investigated the possibility of converting cellulose into hydrogen using sunlight and a simple catalyst – a substance which speeds up a chemical reaction without getting used up.
The researchers studied the effectiveness of three metal-based catalysts – palladium, gold and nickel.
The researchers combined the three catalysts with cellulose and subjected the mixture to light from a desk lamp. At 30 minutes intervals the researchers collected gas samples from the mixture and analysed it to see how much hydrogen was being produced.