Ethanol has gotten a bad rap in the automotive world, but corn might be getting ready to make a comeback. Thanks to hard work of some researchers at Virginia Tech, drivers one day might be refueling their vehicle using the waste associated with corn crops.
The researchers devised a way to create hydrogen using corn waste. Some have spoken out against ethanol, saying that it actually harms the food industry by pumping up the price of corn. This new method uses the husks, cobs and stalks from the plants, parts that humans don’t consume.
So far, hydrogen as a fuel for cars has met quite a lot of opposition, considering that it can be difficult and costly to produce. Using corn waste could make it vastly more affordable, plus it proves that the process can be done locally. In fact, the researchers found that the fuel could be produced on-site at a refueling station.
This development could be huge as a growing number people and nations are seeking to wean themselves almost entirely off petroleum. It could help cars like the new Toyota Mirai become commonplace, perhaps taking their place alongside electric cars as models that run on gasoline or diesel go the way of the dodo.
Virginia Tech’s press release states that the fuel-creating process produces hydrogen and carbon dioxide. While it’s only been done on a small scale, the next step is to create fuel in much larger quantities. Just how long the technology would take to come to market is anyone’s guess, but the development is still encouraging. Part of the project’s funding came from the National Science Foundation and the Shell GameChanger initiative.