Fuels of the future may come from 'ice that burns,' water and sunshine

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2008 — Move over, oil, gasoline, and coal. Researchers are describing key advances in developing new fuels to help supply an energy-hungry world in the 21st Century in the eighth and ninth episodes in the American Chemical Society's Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions series. Those fuels include "green gasoline," "designer hydrocarbons," "the ice that burns," and other sources that can help power an energy-hungry world into the future.

Part One of New Fuels begins by describing the vision of automobile pioneer Henry Ford, who predicted almost 70 years ago that cars of the future would run on ethanol. That is today's No. 1 biofuel — a genre of fuels produced from plants. Ford actually designed the Model T to run on ethanol. It then describes the latest research advances in biofuels, such as producing ethanol from non-food sources such as grass, that could be more sustainable than corn-based ethanol. ACS will issue a Spanish-language version of this podcast later in November.

Part Two describes how "the ice that burns" — gas hydrates — offer a potential new bonanza of natural gas, with rich deposits in the United States and elsewhere. Another segment explores artificial photosynthesis and describes researchers' efforts to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen in order to produce clean-burning hydrogen fuel. The podcast also highlights how scientists are continuing to make strides toward less expensive but more efficient solar cells and safer nuclear power.

Scientists featured in the New Fuels podcasts include:

  • Bruce Dale, Ph.D., of Michigan State University, who discusses the promise and challenges of developing biofuels, particularly cellulosic ethanol, one of the most exciting biofuels on the horizon.
  • Harry Gray, Ph.D., of the Caltech Center for Sustainable Energy Research, who discusses the vast potential of solar energy.
  • Daniel Nocera, Ph.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who describes the development of a catalyst that can cheaply and efficiently split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The development could lead to cars that are, in essence, powered by water.
  • James B. Roberto, Ph.D., deputy director for science and technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, who describes how scientists are trying to make nuclear energy safer and more efficient.

Source: American Chemical Society

Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions.

(Photo Credit: American Chemical Society)