I have two news items one of which concerns the countries of Ireland and Northern Ireland and a recent workshop on agriculture and nanotechnology held in Belfast, Northern Ireland . The papers presented at the workshop have now been made available for downloading according to a Jan. 25, 2014 news item on Nanowerk,
On January 9, 2014, safefood, the Institute for Global Food Security, Queen’s University Belfast, and Teagasc Food Research Centre organized a workshop Nanotechnology in the agri-food industry: Applications, opportunities and challenges. The presentations from this event are now availabled as downloadable pdf files …
According to its hompage, Teagasc “is the agriculture and food development authority in Ireland. Its mission is to support science-based innovation in the agri-food sector and the broader bioeconomy that will underpin profitability, competitiveness and sustainability.”
The full list of presentations and access to them can be found on Nanowerk or on this Teagasc publications page,
Welcome address (2.7MB, PDF) Dr James McIntosh, safefood
Societal acceptance of nanotechnology (3.6MB, PDF) Prof Lynn Frewer, Newcastle University
State of play on European regulations for the use of nanotechnology in food and feed (2.5MB, PDF) Dr Patrick O’Mahony, Food Safety Authority Ireland Dublin
Examples of nanotechnologies in the Agri-food sector (13.3MB, PDF) Dr Frans Kampers, Wageningen UR
My next item is also focused on agriculture although not wholly. From a Jan. 26, 2014 news item on Nanowerk,
University researchers from two continents have engineered an efficient and environmentally friendly catalyst for the production of molecular hydrogen (H2), a compound used extensively in modern industry to manufacture fertilizer and refine crude oil into gasoline.
The Stanford University School of Engineering news release (dated Jan. 27, 2014) by Tom Abate, which originated the news item, (Note: Links have been removed) describes the work,
Although hydrogen is an abundant element, it is generally not found as the pure gas H2 but is generally bound to oxygen in water (H2O) or to carbon in methane (CH4), the primary component in natural gas. At present, industrial hydrogen is produced from natural gas using a process that consumes a great deal of energy while also releasing carbon into the atmosphere, thus contributing to global carbon emissions.
In an article published today in Nature Chemistry, nanotechnology experts from Stanford Engineering and from Denmark’s Aarhus University explain how to liberate hydrogen from water on an industrial scale by using electrolysis.
In electrolysis, electrical current flows through a metallic electrode immersed in water. This electron flow induces a chemical reaction that breaks the bonds between hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The electrode serves as a catalyst, a material that can spur one reaction after another without ever being used up. Platinum is the best catalyst for electrolysis. If cost were no object, platinum might be used to produce hydrogen from water today.
But money matters. The world consumes about 55 billion kilograms of hydrogen a year. It now costs about $1 to $2 per kilogram to produce hydrogen from methane. So any competing process, even if it’s greener, must hit that production cost, which rules out electrolysis based on platinum.
In their Nature Chemistry paper, the researchers describe how they re-engineered the atomic structure of a cheap and common industrial material to make it nearly as efficient at electrolysis as platinum – a finding that has the potential to revolutionize industrial hydrogen production.
The project was conceived by Jakob Kibsgaard, a post-doctoral researcher with Thomas Jaramillo, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. Kibsgaard started this project while working with Flemming Besenbacher, a professor at the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO) at Aarhus.
There’s more about about the history of electrolysis and hydrogen production and about how the scientists developed their technique in the news release but this time I want to focus on the issue of scalability,. From the news release,
But in chemical engineering, success in a beaker is only the beginning.
The larger questions were: could this technology scale to the 55 billion kilograms per year global demand for hydrogen, and at what finished cost per kilogram?
Last year, Jaramillo and a dozen co-authors studied four factory-scale production schemes in an article for The Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal of Energy and Environmental Science.
They concluded that it could be feasible to produce hydrogen in factory-scale electrolysis facilities at costs ranging from $1.60 to $10.40 per kilogram – competitive at the low end with current practices based on methane – though some of their assumptions were based on new plant designs and materials.
“There are many pieces of the puzzle still needed to make this work and much effort ahead to realize them,” Jaramillo said. “However, we can get huge returns by moving from carbon-intensive resources to renewable, sustainable technologies to produce the chemicals we need for food and energy.”
Here’s a link to and a citation for the researchers’ paper,
Building an appropriate active-site motif into a hydrogen-evolution catalyst with thiomolybdate [Mo3S13]2− clusters by Jakob Kibsgaard, Thomas F. Jaramillo, & Flemming Besenbacher. Nature Chemistry (2014) doi:10.1038/nchem.1853 Published online 26 January 2014
This article is behind a paywall.