The future jewel of fuel

By | Science & Technology
Photo © Rob Lavinsky / iRocks.com

In recent times hydrogen seemed to have been highlighted as a suitable substitute for fossil fuels. Frequently used in electric cars as an emission-less fuel, hydrogen may be the most common element throughout universe, which may make it a perfect contender to replace carbon energy sources.

However, due to the energetic potential of hydrogen of which makes it an innovate fuel source, additional it makes it inclined to firmly bond with other elements. Whether this is within the vast bodies of water which span the globe or inside human bodies, the air breathed or the rock complexes in the ground; hydrogen may rarely be only hydrogen. To extract this element from its numerous sources seems to be costly, a large percentage of the potential available energy may simply be used up scraping the hydrogen from its source.

There may be a functional extraction technique in use today, yet parts of its process somewhat is challenged the mark when addressing the required reduced down of carbon energy sources. A process called steam reforming or more appropriately fossil fuel reforming applies high temperature water to a range of fossil fuels to produce hydrogen and methane.

Some may believe this is a method of hybridisation, bringing carbon fuels into the future, hydrocarbon fuels might be grown and refined sustainably from crops, though mass industrial adoption of this method has yet to materialise.

Which makes fossil fuel reforming more of a method to facilitate the perpetuation of a fuel should have moved on from years ago; for next-gen fuels to truly flourish it needs to become independent of carbon sources. By using rocks, water and a fair deal of pressure and heat scientists from the University of Lyon may have found a way to coax hydrogen from its bonds, a method with promising applications.

The semi-precious stone, olivine referred to as peridot, is most commonly seen within volcanic igneous rock and its varying green colours makes it perfect for jewellery and sculpture. However, it is the olivine’s hydrogen stripping power which seems to have put this gemstone into a league of its own. Its ability surpassed scientist’s expectations when preliminary experiments began. In the correct conditions olivine reacts with water to from a mineral called serpentine, yet this reaction only uses a single oxygen and a single hydrogen, releasing a lone, pure hydrogen atom. This process occurs over a geological time scale so mineralogists were expecting a simulation to take months or at least weeks.

After water was added to a sample of olivine, it was placed in a pressure cooker, heated to several hundred degrees and the atmospheric pressure was increased by two thousand percent. After one day scientists were surprised to see the reaction was approximately fifty percent complete. The key to this rate of reaction is said to be ruby, or more accurately aluminium oxide a small substituent of the gemstone ruby. The aluminium acted as a catalyst, speeding up the transformation or serpentinisation of olivine to serpentine.

Whilst ruby might be expensive for industrial scale application, aluminium may be available in many, inexpensive sources. Further more, this method has an interesting side effect which may heal previous carbon emissions. Serpentine, acts like a carbon scrubber, absorbing carbon dioxide, a process might may said to be partly responsible for atmospheric carbon regulation in the past. Though the level that synthetic serpentine might play in carbon absorption may be yet to be determined.

Though olivine-hydrogen extraction may only in its juvenile stages of research, success may revolutionise many facets of everyday life.

How might a new fuel source improve the world of consumption?

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