Battling air pollution and meeting the fuel demands of an ever-growing population present two seemingly intractable problems for policymakers.
One solution before them is the availability of hydrogen fuel, a zero-emission fuel which can power vehicles or electric devices. Recently passenger car manufacturers have begun design engines powered by hydrogen fuel, while the same is also used in fuel cell-driven buses.
In an era of rising pollution and global warming, indigenous production of this zero-emission fuel is critical since India imports a great deal of its fuel requirements.
Fortunately, researchers at IIT-Jodhpur have developed this ‘fuel of the future’ through a process which is the reverse of photosynthesis in plants. These researchers at the chemistry department have found a way to leverage the vast amounts of sunlight the state receives for this particular process, which entails breaking down water into oxygen and hydrogen.
Using lanthanide, a chemical catalyst, researchers can trap the oxygen element leaving behind pure hydrogen, which can then be used as fuel, according to this Times of India report.
Before reaching upon this solution, the team of researchers led by Professor Rakesh Kumar Sharma, sifted through 700 different catalyst combinations to obtain pure hydrogen before landing on the present one. “Presently, hydrogen is being produced on an industrial level using methane, but the process is quite expensive and requires temperatures up to 1000-2000 degrees Celsius decimate CH4 (methane) and obtain hydrogen,” Sharma told the publication.
“The challenge here for researchers across the nations to acquire pure hydrogen is to trap oxygen,” he added. Another challenge in developing hydrogen fuel is the cost, which is almost four times the price of petrol in India, according to the Financial Express.
“For the first time that we have succeeded in obtaining oxygen-free pure hydrogen, which means pure and quality fuel, and that too at a very low price,” said Sharma.
The real price of this particular version of hydrogen fuel developed by IIT Jodhpur will be known only after mass production commences. Until then, it’s hard to say.
Despite concerns, major automobile giants like BMW and Honda are already manufacturing cars which run on hydrogen, although they failed to attract too much demand because of the high price of fuel. Responding to this, IIT-Jodhpur has now even applied a patent for this seemingly cheaper process of obtaining hydrogen fuel, which could help India reduce its import dependence by 30%.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)