Sustainable fuel: they manage to generate hydrogen from banana peels and coffee beans

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The biomass used by scientists is composed mostly of bananas and coffee beans

Photo: DANIEL LEAL / AFP / Getty Images

A group of scientists from the Federal Polytechnic School (EPFL) of Lausanne in Switzerland developed a new mechanism that allows them to obtain solid biochar and hydrogen gas from banana peels and coffee beans. These can be used later as a source of clean and sustainable fuel.

The discovery occurred as part of the efforts for new renewable energy sources carried out by the study center. Obtaining this type of ecological fuel was possible thanks to the fact that the experts used techniques that are commonly used in ink curing processes for electronic printing. This allows them to convert biomass into an energy source.

As explained by scientists, the method uses a xenon lamp which generates an extremely powerful beam of light which is fired into the biomass. Once this is absorbed by the mixture of banana peels and coffee beans, a photothermal conversion is instantly triggered, causing the biomass to turn into a mixture of hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide and biochar.

In a statement published by the EPFL they described that the biomass used during the experiments consisted of banana, coconut, orange peels, corn cobs and coffee beans. These were subjected to a temperature of 105 °C for 24 hours, then ground and sieved into a fine powder.

One of the reasons that explains the importance of this discovery is that hydrogen is considered by many to be the perfect fuel since it can be used to produce electricity, which in turn generates hydrogen again. In this way, a cycle is created in which the hydrogen itself that is spent is replaced at the same time that energy is generated.

Each kilo of dry biomass can generate around 100 liters of hydrogen and 330 grams of biocharwhich is up to a third of the mass of the original dry banana peel”, explained one of the project researchers.

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