Researchers at the Center for Clean Energy Engineering have been busy tackling the challenges of harvesting hydrogen from the myriad sources that comprise a diversified energy portfolio. Fossil fuels, including natural gas, diesels and gasified coal, provide multiple sources of hydrogen within the constraints of our existing energy infrastructure. Green fuels, including methane biogas, ethanol and butanol fermentation products, and bio-diesels derived from vegetable oils, provide renewable hydrogen sources that are produced locally and comprise a carbon-neutral (i.e. zero greenhouse emissions) energy cycle. In all of these cases, fuel reforming is critical to the successful creation of a hydrogen-based energy infrastructure and economy.
Research combines faculty expertise in (i) catalysis and surface science, (ii) kinetics and reaction engineering, (iii) materials science, and (iv) environmental engineering to develop efficient reforming systems. Objectives include (i) minimize catalyst and overall reformer costs, (ii) maximize reforming thermal and fuel efficiencies, (iii) ensure long-term stability of reforming technology, and (iv) minimize environmental impact of reforming waste, by-products. Current specific research projects at the C2E2 include (i) conversion of bio-diesel and/or vegetable oils to hydrogen, (ii) conversion of ethanol-water mixtures to hydrogen, and (iii) direct utilization of methane bio-gas to electricity.