Ever since people have begun to realise the negative impacts that fossil fuels have on this planet, scientists have become serious in the search for efficient and new renewable energy sources.
At Cardiff University, researchers might have found a simple and surprisingly unlikely source: grass. More specifically, fescue grass, a type of grass that is tolerant to shade as well as cold.
Their new study, just out today, reveals that with the addition of a simple catalyst — nickel — fescue grass could just be an excellent new source of hydrogen.
Hydrogen, not a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide, makes it a very viable option for sustainable energy. Scientists have known for some time that it might be a good option but they had struggled to find a cheap way of extracting it. Now, the new study suggests that we are able to get this much-needed hydrogen from the cellulose found in fescue grass. Cellulose is the long chain of sugars in plant cell walls that make them sturdy.
The process works by using sunlight to activate the catalyst, nickle, which in turn converts the cellulose and water into hydrogen. They tried other catalysts, including palladium and gold, but nickle proved to be the most effective and cost-efficient way at making the process work.
According to the United States Energy Information Administration, hydrogen can be used to fuel many things, including laptops, cell phones, and cars. Currently, there are around 500 hydrogen-fuelled cars driving around the US, which use electrical currents produced from hydrogen.
While scientists are still in the early stages of harnessing hydrogen from grass, this new method of hydrogen production is potentially an incredibly fast, cheap, and environmentally friendly way to fuel our lives in the future.
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