Corn Stalks and Cobs Into Clean Hydrogen

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Hydrogen has several demerits in coming to the energy market.  A primary issue for H2 critics – that hydrogen requires more energy to produce than it gives back – may have been answered by Dr. Percival Zhang of Virginia Tech’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering, which is in both the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering.  We’ve covered his work before, usually in terms of turning corn into biofuels or in finding biological ways to produce hydrogen with low energy input. Part of his exploratory mandate comes from his ECHo cycle.  “I wish to suggest constructing the electricity-carbohydrate-hydrogen (ECHo) cycle… could meet four basic needs of humans: air, water, food and energy, while minimizing environmental …

Raising Cane at the Battery Works

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

What if a battery could be made with higher energy and power densities than those currently available, while exploiting a natural material that’s both abundant, recyclable and inexpensive?  Last year, the blog reported on Y. H. Percival Zhang’s work with xylose, a sugar found in most plants, to make hydrogen that could be used in fuel cells. Dr. Zhang, with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and biotechnology from Dartmouth University, draws on his unique pair of specialties to inspire his forays into developing novel ways of extracting energy from natural sources. His latest effort is a battery that runs on maltodextrin, a polysaccharide made from the partial hydrolysis of starch.  That starch can be derived from almost any type of …

Hydrogen as a Biofuel?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

While we’ve written recently about “artificial leaves” that emulate the photosynthesis of their real counterparts, researchers have announced the discovery of a way to extract hydrogen from any plant, which “could help end our dependence on fossil fuels,” according to Y. H. Percival Zhang, associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). The school describes the process as a “breakthrough that has the potential to bring a low-cost, environmentally friendly fuel source to the world.”  Zhang has been working on the problem for over seven years, and like many pioneers, has endured the critical appraisal of those not in tune …