This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

July 09, 2003

New Catalyst Produces Hydrogen from Biomass Without Platinum

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a nickel-tin catalyst that can convert glucose into hydrogen at low temperatures, providing a new process for converting biomass into hydrogen. The discovery, published in the June 27th edition of the journal Science, follows research by the same group last year that produced hydrogen using a platinum catalyst. The new catalyst is much less expensive, which makes the process more practical. The researchers have also developed a secondary process to reduce carbon monoxide contamination in the resulting hydrogen gas to very low levels. That secondary process currently uses a platinum catalyst, but the researchers hope to develop an inexpensive catalyst for that process as well. See the University of Wisconsin-Madison press release.

While the Wisconsin researchers work to perfect their hydrogen production process, FuelCell Energy, Inc. will be advancing fuel cell technologies under four separate federal contracts totaling $1.45 million. A DOE award of $750,000 will go toward developing advanced control modules for the company's power plant that combines a fuel cell with a turbine. DOE will also provide $100,000 for developing advanced positive electrodes, or cathodes, for proton-exchange-membrane (PEM) fuel cells. The U.S. Department of Defense is awarding the company $500,000 to develop negative electrodes, or anodes, for PEM fuel cells that are more tolerant of carbon monoxide contamination and an additional $100,000 for an advanced reformer to convert liquid fuels into a methane-rich gas. See the FuelCell Energy press release.

Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor Company and UTC Fuel Cells will be working together to solve a major hurdle for fuel cell vehicles: developing a fuel cell drive that operates in freezing conditions. The companies hope to clear that hurdle by the end of 2004. Hyundai also expects to start leasing fuel cell vehicles next year. See the UTC Fuel Cells press release.