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Issue 3, 2009
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A sweet out-of-the-box solution to the hydrogen economy: is the sugar-powered car science fiction?

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Abstract

The hydrogen economy presents a compelling future energy picture, especially for the transportation sector. The obstacles, such as low-cost hydrogen production, lack of high-density hydrogen storage approaches, costly infrastructure, and safety concerns are prohibiting its large-scale implementation. To address the above challenges, we propose a new solution – use of starch or cellulose (C6H10O5) from biomass as a hydrogen carrier. This new solution is based on the invention of complete conversion of glucans (starch and cellulose) and water to hydrogen and carbon dioxide as C6H10O5 (aq) + 7H2O (l) → 12H2 (g) + 6CO2 (g). The production of hydrogen from carbohydrates is a nearly carbon-neutral process based on the whole carbon cycle. The use of low-cost renewable carbohydrate as a high hydrogen density carrier (14.8 H2 mass %) may solve problems such as hydrogen production, storage and distribution, as well as address safety concerns. Increasing hydrogen generation rate (power density) and decreasing costs are two major tasks prior to this technology's wide implementation. Analysis based on past scientific knowledge and technical achievements suggests that sugar-powered vehicles could become real in the future with intensive R&D efforts. Here we are calling for international R&D collaborations to pursue the holy grail of the carbohydrate hydrogen economy.

Graphical abstract: A sweet out-of-the-box solution to the hydrogen economy: is the sugar-powered car science fiction?

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Publication details

The article was received on 22 Oct 2008, accepted on 16 Dec 2008 and first published on 23 Jan 2009


Article type: Perspective
DOI: 10.1039/B818694D
Citation: Energy Environ. Sci., 2009,2, 272-282
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    A sweet out-of-the-box solution to the hydrogen economy: is the sugar-powered car science fiction?

    Y.-H. P. Zhang, Energy Environ. Sci., 2009, 2, 272
    DOI: 10.1039/B818694D

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