Stinky Landfill Gases Could Be Source Of Clean Energy

While the debate over climate change rages, we can all agree that methane gas is stinky, and anyone who’s been to a landfill can confirm the presence of the gas. But what if we could not only harness the gases from decomposition in landfills but also convert it to something even more powerful and efficient?

Researchers from the National Institute of Technology in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are reporting that they have developed a new technique that transforms methane into hydrogen, with which they can develop fuel cells to generate clean electricity.

As an alternative to fossil fuels, hydrogen has received a lot of support lately. It is abundant, and it only emits water vapor when burned.

According to the researchers, landfills produce a lot of methane, so they propose to use the garbage deposits as sources.

Unfortunately, the project has seemingly broken down beyond the theoretical stages. The researchers have experienced trouble converting the gas to hydrogen because of chemical processes involving the catalyst, which is the keystone in any chemical reaction.

“The heart of the process for the production of hydrogen from landfill gas is the catalyst, and this can be disrupted by the presence of carbon,” said Fabio B. Noronha, Ph.D., in a press release from the American Chemical Society (ACS). “Because of carbon deposition, the catalyst loses the capacity to convert the landfill gases into hydrogen.”

Researchers are working on some potential solutions. Their ultimate goal is commercialization. If successful, not only could it find a use for a resource we have yet to harness, but also it could make less expensive fuel cells a possibility.

The report was part of the 248th national meeting of the ACS. The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, featured nearly 12,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. 

About the Author

Timothy Johnson


Timothy Johnson is the former digital editor for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine.

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