Another uncommon word, “biomass” refers to producing energy from organic materials such as forestry waste (wood scraps), agricultural crop residue (peanut shells), industrial organic waste, municipal sewage or animal waste. Biomass conversion could be a promising path forward for green hydrogen production.
This method converts biomass into gas or liquids and separates the hydrogen. More specifically, at temperatures exceeding 1292°F, the gasification process converts biomass without combustion. The waste is burned to heat the water, which creates steam, which spins a turbine, which powers a generator, which generates electricity. When combined with oxygen and steam, the reaction results in carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen gas. To boost hydrogen yields, the process adds more steam to the resulting carbon monoxide to produce even more hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
Researchers are also looking into “photoreforming,” essentially converting both biomass and plastic waste into hydrogen, to address our plastic and carbon crisis in tandem. This involves adding a catalyst to the plastic waste and putting it into an alkaline solution, which produces hydrogen as well as small organic molecules.
There may be nothing new under the sun, but innovative methods of isolating our most fundamental element, hydrogen, just might be the energy breakthrough that could make a brighter world for every living creature on Earth.