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Ammonia is a well-known industrial chemical that is manufactured worldwide as a precursor for the production of Urea. The chemistry and technology of Ammonia synthesis is well-known and well established. It was a land mark achievement to fix atmospheric Nitrogen into the soil in the form of Urea as a fertilizer. It has 17.6% Hydrogen and 82.4% Nitrogen making it an ideal fuel for combustion when compared to Gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas emission because Ammonia no carbon. Handling free Hydrogen has always been a concern due to its explosive nature and lightness. Transportation of Hydrogen in the form of Ammonia is relatively cheaper and safer. A non-regulated Ammonia nursing tank at 265 psi pressure holds 3025kg Ammonia, containing 534kg Hydrogen, because a 5900 gallon Hydrogen tube trailer at 3200 psi pressure, contain only 350kgs of Hydrogen. Low pressure Ammonia tank with less than 25% volume contain more than 53% Hydrogen than a high pressure tube trailer. Ammonia has a lower volumetric energy density compared to other fuels.However, after subtracting energy required to elicit hydrogen from each fuel, hydrogen emerges with highest energy density compared to other fuels, and it is the only fuel which is carbon free. These qualities make Ammonia, a potential  substitute for Gasoline.

Ammonia need not be used as direct combustible fuel in internal combustion engines but it can be used as Hydrogen carrier safely and economically. The Hydrogen resulting from the decomposition of Ammonia can be used as fuel in a Fuel cell car as well as in a combustion engine. It can also be used to generate small on site power using a Fuel cell or IC engine. For example, 534kg Hydrogen can generate Electricity up to 10 MW and up to 6Mw thermal energy using a Fuel cell.

Currently ammonia is manufactured using fossil fuel source such as natural gas or naphtha to generate Hydrogen in the form of Syngas.But this can be effectively substituted with renewable source of Hydrogen such as Electrolysis of water using renewable solar thermal power or wind energy. Alternatively a biogas can be steam reformed to generate Hydrogen similar to natural gas. The generated Hydrogen can be compressed and stored.

Nitrogen forms 79% of atmospheric air and it can be obtained by air liquefaction and separation by distillation or by simple membrane separation method to separate air into Nitrogen and Oxygen. The resulting Nitrogen can be compressed and stored for Ammonia sysnthsis.Production of Ammonia using Bosch Haber process is well-known. Ammonia can be transported in pipelines, in tankers by road, rail or ship to various destinations.

Ammonia can be readily be used as fuel using a spark ignited combustion engine with little changes because Ammonia is classified as non-combustible fuel. Alternatively, it can be decomposed in a catalytic bed reactor and separated into Hydrogen and Nitrogen using PSA (pressure swing adsorption) system. The resulting Hydrogen can be stored to run a Fuel cell car like Honda FCX. Ammonia, as a Hydrogen carrier can substitute gasoline as an alternative fuel for transportation and power generation. All necessary technologies and systems are commercially available to make it a commercial reality.

 

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Bioethanol has successfully substituted Gasoline as a fuel for cars both in the form of blends with Gasoline or individually as an Anhydrous Ethanol. This  successful demonstration by Brazil opens up new generation of cars called flex-fuel cars that allow usage of various blends of Ethanol and Gasoline.Bioethanol can also be used to generate Hydrogen on site by steam reformation so that even Fuel cell cars such as Honda FCX can be felled by Bioethanol.This makes Bioethanol unique as an alternative fuel for transportation. It also facilitates on site electricity generation using Fuel cell, replacing diesel engines.

Substitution of Gasoline by  Bioethanol has several advantages over other alternative fuels. The biggest advantage with Bioethanol is, it is renewable and it allows reduction of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and will be eligible for Carbon credit. It can be produced by both developing  as well as developed countries using  locally available agriculture produces such as cane sugar, corn, tapioca, sorghum etc. Hydrogen generated from Bioethanol is also free from Sulfur compounds normally associated with natural gas, making it an ideal fuel for Fuel cell application in cars, as well as for power generation using SOFC (solid oxide Fuel cell) or PAFC (Phosphoric acid Fuel cell).The resulting high purity Hydrogen 99.99% can be used as fuel for all type of transportation including Fuel cell Buses, scooters and even boats.

The stoichiometric reaction of steam reformation in presence of catalyst can be represented by the following chemical reaction:

C2H5OH + 3 H2O———- 6H2 + 2 CO2

The Ethanol and water mixture is preheated and the vaporized mixture is fed into a catalytic reactor. The resulting Hydrogen is contaminated with carbon monoxide. This gas mixture is separated using membrane such as Palladium to get Hydrogen with less than 50ppm CO as contaminant. Such purity is acceptable by Fuel cell such as SOFC as well as PAFC.In future a small micro-reactor for on-board reformation may be possible making Fuel cell cars with onboard liquid fuel storage.

Commercial reformers consumes about 0.88 lits of Biothanol of 96% purity to generate 1 Nm3 of Hydrogen with 60% conversion. This translates to $ 5.90 per Kg of Hydrogen. Fuel cell cars offer a mileage of 240 from 1 kg Hydrogen costing only $5.90. For on site power generation 1 kg Hydrogen generates as much as 15Kw electricity and 20Kw heat .Onsite Hydrogen generation with steam reformation also facilitates using SOFC and PAFC for high temperature power generation applications. They are ideal for CHP (combined heat and power) applications for 24×7 operations like hospitals, hotels and super markets. These fuel cells are silent in operation without any emissions except water vapor.

Governments should encourage Bioethanol production and distribution for both transportation and power generation. There is a fear that Ethanol could be diverted for potable purposes illegally depriving Governments of potential reveneues.But this can be solved by denaturing Bioethanol and making it unsuitable for potable purposes. Denaturants such Pyridine has no effect on steam reformation and number of denaturants are available. Such policies will allow the transition from fossil fuels to Hydrogen or Bioethanol.This is a simple and straight forward step any Government can take irrespective of the size or type of nation. But it requires political will, determination and leadership. Developing countries need not wait for big greenhouse emitters such as US, China and India to make a decision on their Carbon emissions but start introducing Bioethanol as fuel locally.

Hydrogen is the cleanest source of energy that can power your homes and fuel your cars. It can potentially substitute diesel and petrol or coal and clean up our environment. Hydrogen has been manufactured industrially for the past several decades and transported across thousand of kilometers by pipelines in Europe. The science and technology of Hydrogen is well known but its application to generate power and fuel a car is relatively new. The gasoline internal combustion engines that drive our gasoline cars can be modified to suit Hydrogen fuel. But the physical and chemical properties of Hydrogen gas created a necessity to alter existing gasoline engines for commercialization. But such conversion has been painfully slow for couple of reasons. There is a stiff resistance from gasoline cars to switch over to Hydrogen because they have a well established infrastructure to manufacture gasoline cars and to supply gasoline through well established distribution network. But Hydrogen cars lack both of them. Even if the cars can be modified for Hydrogen, there are no sales or distribution network for the fuel Hydrogen, similar to Gasoline. Even consumers need to be educated that Hydrogen is safe, environmentally friendly and we need not depend on import of oil and so on. It is a blessing in disguise that Hydrogen can be generated by each home, business and industries for their captive use from their tap water. Recently Hydrogen fuelled scooters have been introduced in the market. There are number of advertisements in the media too; that you can fit a Hydrogen generator at your car that will reduce your gasoline bills substantially and also cut your emissions.But these Electrolyzers can generate only water gas and not a pure Hydrogen. Yet such simple devices can help reduce your petrol bills to an extend .If things are so simple why are we still struggling with high crude oil prices and increasing electricity bills? Let us examine this in detail. Water (H2O) can be split into Hydrogen (H2) and Oxygen (O2) by simply passing an electric current through water using a battery. The water disassociate as follows: 2    H2o———   2 H2+ )2 Stochiometrically, it means 36 lits of water will generate 4 Kgs of Hydrogen and 32 kgs of Oygygen.The current PEM (Proton exchange membrane) Fuel cell car (Honda FCX clarity) can drive 100 miles with just 0.105 kgs of Hydrogen from 5000 psi Hydrogen tank. Similarly 4kgs of hydrogen can generate about 100 kws of electricity using PEM Fuel cell, based on a conservative estimate; but 4Kgs of gasoline can generate only 15 kW electricity. The gasoline engine offers only 100km mileage from 13 kgs (16lits) of gasoline. In other words, 0.105 kgs of Hydrogen at 5000 psi gives the same mileage as 16 lits of Gasoline.  This is the amazing power of water, yet to be unleashed! The tap water is suitable to generate Hydrogen by adding a little amount of potash lye to improve the electrical conductivity. An Alkaline water electrolyzer can be attached to the water tank to generate required amount of Hydrogen based on the above calculation. The resulting Hydrogen has to be compressed to a required level. The power consumption to electrolyze water will be about 75-80 kwhrs per Kg of Hydrogen generated at 5000 psi.Therefore 4Kgs of Hydrogen will need a power of 300kwhrs costing about $30 for a total mileage of 3800 miles. You will need a small reverse osmosis unit to be attached to your water tap so that the water is de-ionized so that there is no precipitation in the Electrolyzer or reduction in the efficiency of electrolysis. Recently, Suzuki Bargeman introduced Hydrogen Fuel cell scooter which claims to offer a mileage of 200km from 12 lits Hydrogen (carbon composite material) tank at an higher pressure of 10,000psi.The future of Hydrogen car is very promising and finally the world can hope to get rid of smoke and noise from our roads and cities.

This article provides an overview on Hydrogen cars and how we can generate renewable hydrogen to fuel these cars. There are two well-known brands of Hydrogen based cars already in the market, BMW7 and Honda FCX Clarity models.

BMW7 works on Hydrogen Internal Combustion engine fuelled by Liquid Hydrogen. It is a 6 Liters V12 engine with 191Kw capacity and 390 N of torque. It offers 100km from 50 Liters of Liquid Hydrogen with a density of about 70-80gms/lit and offers 100kms from Gasoline of 16.7 liters. It has a capacity of 170 liters for liquid Hydrogen storage at the rear end of the car. It can run both on Hydrogen as well as on Gasoline. Liquid hydrogen has a better power density but liquefaction is a cryogenic technology and consumes power for liquefaction. The storage tank also is of special construction because Liquid Hydrogen is stored at -253C.

Honda FCX Clarity car is fuel cell car fuelled by compressed Hydrogen gas. It offers 100kms for 3.5 lits of Hydrogen (at 5000 psi pressure with density at 30gms/lit.). It has Hydrogen storage of 3.92kgs kgs with a total mileage of 240miles. Increasing Hydrogen storage gas pressure up to 10000psi, the Hydrogen power density is considerably increased making it comparable with liquid Hydrogen. Moreover fuel cell car is silent while driving because there is no combustion engine.
BMW is able to use their existing conventional internal combustion engine with slight changes suitable for Hydrogen so that they can use their existing infrastructure. But Honda FCX uses proton exchange membrane Fuel cell. It is an electrochemical device that converts Hydrogen into electricity which runs the motor for transmission of power. It is similar to an electric car in which power is stored in batteries and used to drive the motor for transmission. The only difference is the power is generated in Fuel cell car as and when hydrogen is supplied whereas in Electric cars, power is drawn from stored energy from the battery.

We can inject pure Hydrogen along with Gasoline, CNG or LPG to assist the combustion to save fuel consumption up to 30% and to reduce harmful emissions. The conventional gasoline cars can be fitted with water electrolyzer to generate Hydrogen using the car battery. The electrolyzer currently sold in the market is quite different. They generate ‘water gases’ and not pure Hydrogen. They electrolyze water using pulsating DC current which essentially breaks down water into Hydrogen and oxygen molecules. The complete mixture of Hydrogen, Oxygen and undissociated water molecules are injected into fuel manifold of the car. The hydrogen will assist in the process of combustion to certain extend and help save the fuel consumption of gasoline.

Renewable Hydrogen is a potential source for fuelling automobiles. One can use solar panels and simple tap water to generate hydrogen gas and store them under high pressure in cylinders. We will be releasing an eBook in the near future to design a suitable Renewable Hydrogen system and install them at homes and businesses for power generation as well as to fuel two-stroke engines such as scooters and bikes. Initially the book will offer DIY kits to design and install power generation for homes and businesses up to 10Kw capacity electricity generation. We will be conducting trials on two-stroke engines using renewable Hydrogen to get approvals from proper transport authorities for safety and usage on Indian roads.

Hydrogen can be safely handled as long as we take appropriate safety measures as we normally do while handling petroleum products like gasoline or butane gas. It may look like a daunting task to fuel a car with Hydrogen gas but in reality, all necessary equipment and systems are commercially available including High pressure Carbon fiber tanks fully tested and approved.

Power generation using fossil fuels is a well established technology dating back to 1839, when Michael Faraday invented the principle of Electro-magnetism. There was not much of a change in this technology all these years. But recently greenhouse emission and global warming has become an issue; and the world started looking for an alternative source of energy and method of power generation. However it is not an easy task to develop completely a different technology as well as a fuel in a short span of time, while an unabated man-made greenhouse gas emission continues. Scientists  are now warning  catastrophic consequences if we do not curtail greenhouse gas emissions with great urgency.Untill now the world was able to avert some of the potentially  catastrophic events happening, like ozone layer depletion, pandemic bird flu etc.But global warming is a new thereat  that demands an entirely a new solution and a swift action. But most countries in the world are not is a place to curtain greenhouse emission gas, simply because there is no alternative fuel known, except fossil fuels. Renewable energy is relatively a new concept. Though we knew about solar and wind energy sources, we did not persuade  them seriously because they could not compete with conventional fossil fuels. But the time has come for new emerging technologies that can not only compete with fossil fuels but also eliminate greenhouse emissions. The world has invested massively on fossil fuel infrastructures and still investing heavily on oil and gas explorations. Obviously there is no end in sight as far as fossil fuels are concerned and the world is carrying on business as usual.

Meanwhile a new technology based on fuel cell is emerging as an alternative for power generation. Fuel cell is a known concept and it has been successfully deployed in ‘Apollo space programme in space shuttle. This old version of alkaline fuel cells was replaced with PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cell or (PEMF) Polymer electrode membrane fuel cell. This new version was used in Gemini’s space programme in sixties. Fuel cell is an electro chemical device that uses Hydrogen gas as a fuel and it operates at ambient temperature. It is like a battery cell. The difference between fuel cell and batteries is the Fuel cell will keep generating power as long as fuel is supplied unlike a battery, where energy is stored in the form of chemical energy and converted into electrical energy when used by connecting through a conductor. Battery needs recharging but Fuel cell requires refueling. The fuel used in Fuel cell is invariably Hydrogen. Conventional power generation involves combustion of fossil fuel (heat energy) which drives a turbine (mechanical energy) to run an alternator to generate power (electrical energy).In fuel cell; Hydrogen gas reacts with oxygen from the atmosphere (electrochemically) to generate power. It produces water as by-product. The efficiency of Fuel cell is about 50-60% compared to 35-40% by steam or gas turbine. In regenerative fuel cell, we can split water into Hydrogen and oxygen using same proton exchange membrane elecrolyzer.We can use the resulting Hydrogen as a Fuel to the PEM Fuel cell to generate power, thus recovering  water. It is a closed circuit system. There are no mechanical moving parts, no combustion, no smoke or no noise. It is a quiet and clean operation. It is a very promising technology that can revolutionize the way we produce fuel and generate power. The Hydrogen and fuel cell combination is used in cars. Honda FCX (fuel cell model) cars work on the same principle and they are already on roads!

One problem with Hydrogen generation is it requires more power to split water, into Hydrogen and oxygen, than the power generated by resulting hydrogen, using Fuel cell. However, this technology will change the future of power generation by eliminating greenhouse emission completely. But how long it will take to become a commercial reality is something we have to wait and see! If political leaders and Governments around the world recognize the potential of this technology and take bold decisions together with swift actions, probably our future generation can breathe a clean air.

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