- The Washington Times - Friday, September 27, 2002

There are many uses for sugar but researchers now believe a spoonful of the sweetener may be the automotive fuel of the future.

They claim to have found a relatively effortless way to extract the clean fuel source hydrogen from a glucose solution.

"We at the [laboratory] are in a bench experiment stage so far, but it works," according to Jim Dumesic, who leads the research team at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Mr. Dumesic says it is far more efficient and quicker than the alternative of using bacteria to break down plant material such as corn to generate hydrogen.

The research, which will be published in the science journal Nature, found heating the sugar solution to 392 degrees Fahrenheit and passing it over a platinum-based catalyst broke it down into hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

It is claimed the hydrogen could then be piped off into a fuel cell a cleaner alternative for powering cars that manufacturers hope soon will be in wide-spread use with the carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, where it could be absorbed normally by growing vegetation and transformed back into oxygen.

Mr. Dumesic said: "The beauty of our process is that it is fairly simple and at fairly mild temperatures, with no harmful byproducts."

It is claimed by the researcher that the product does not produce extra carbon dioxide, as this would have been released back into the air anyway through biodegradation of the plants.

He said the process is still at an early stage, with much work to be done on preventing the catalyst's degrading and on improving the efficiency of the conversion process.A variety of renewable sources can provide glucose.

"Our goal in a perfect situation would be to achieve a process where 25 percent of the hydrogen would be used to heat the solution with the remaining 75 percent free to be used as fuel," said Mr. Dumesic. "But we are a long way from that."

At present in the laboratory, hydrogen constitutes about half of the product from a catalyzed glucose solution.Mr. Dumesic says that with further refining of the sugar solution the ratio rises.

Implications of the research are potentially huge. Worldwide, carmakers, including General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and BMW, are experimenting with fuel cells powered by hydrogen, which produces a lot of energy and whose only byproduct is water.

"We are not talking about spooning glucose into your car to make it go. That is 'back to the future stuff,'" Mr. Dumesic said. "We have a lot more bench work over the next few years to do to see the potential."


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