Turning Garden Grass into Energy

Teresa Madaleno

A team of researchers, including a group from Cardiff University have demonstrated that significant amounts of hydrogen can be extracted from fescue grass. All it takes is help from sunlight and an inexpensive catalyst.

In a news release, experts from Cardiff University’s Cardiff Catalysis Institute explained how they investigated the possibility of converting cellulose into hydrogen using sunlight and a simple catalyst. The process is referred to as “photocatalysis”. It involves sunlight activating the catalyst, which works to convert cellulose and water into hydrogen. The researchers began their work with three different catalysts – Palladium, Gold and Nickel.

In one round of experiments, the team combined the three catalysts with cellulose and exposed them to light from a desk lamp. Gas samples were collected and analysed to see how much hydrogen was actually produced. They then repeated the experiment using fescue grass gathered from a domestic garden. The results showed that a significant amount of hydrogen could be produced using this method.

As far as the team is aware, this is the first time this kind of raw biomass has been used to produce hydrogen in this way.

Although this is a new discovery, the UK researchers are hopeful this could be a sustainable way to produce hydrogen, creating great potential in the renewable energy industry. The fact it doesn’t release greenhouse gases when it is burnt could make it an important renewable energy source.

Hydrogen is found all over the world in water, hydrocarbons and in other organic matter. Imagine cutting your grass now and think about the possible value in those clippings.