This project investigates biomass conversion to COx-free hydrogen (H2) with co-generation of biochar via a novel alkaline thermal treatment. CO and CO2, commonly produced during pyrolysis, will react with the alkali metal hydroxide to form stable metal carbonates leading to gaseous product that is free of carbon. Thus, the produced hydrogen can directly be used in fuel cells for electricity generation without subsequent gas cleanup/upgrade steps. In this study, both non-catalyzed and catalyzed reactions of biomass and hydroxide will be investigated to optimize and evaluate the overall sustainability of the proposed biomass conversion scheme. If successful, this transformative approach to biomass conversion will provide an important stepping stone for the development of a sustainable energy pathway based on carbon-neutral bioenergy.

The fundamental reaction kinetic and mechanistic studies will reveal important reaction pathways for forming a carbon-free hydrogen stream from various biomass feedstocks. The findings from this complex solid-solid reaction scheme involving in-situ carbon capture will not only provide the proof-of-concept of this novel biomass conversion technology but also the fundamental basis for other biomass conversion technologies. Ultimately, if successful, this technology will advance the field of sustainable energy generation by allowing the traditional energy consumers to be able to engage in the decision making process in energy production or even become energy producers themselves. The main technological benefits of the proposed biomass-to-H2 scheme include the co-generation of H2 and biochar, significant reduction in carbon emissions with the potential to be carbon-negative, no need for additional gas cleanup steps, and a simplified reactor design.

The team?s educational and outreach activities include: to promote the international research and educational collaborations in the proposed research area; to motivate K-12 students, particularly female and minority students, to pursue a career in science and engineering; to provide academic research experience for both graduate and undergraduate students; and to enable the development of a new curriculum reflecting an increasing interest in green energy and environmental issues.

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Columbia University
New York
United States
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