May 21, 2003
Hydrogen power for India’s villages?
John Norris is an Englishman now living in the USA. He is an Indophile. He is also one of GoodNewsIndia’s earliest admirers and supporters. John keeps forwarding ideas that might be appropriate for India. He is a qualified mechanical and computer engineer too. So, when he wrote suggesting hydrogen based autonomous power for rural India, one knew he would have vetted the concept. What John has sent is indeed a usable bundle of information.
First off, let us admit hydrogen generation as of today is a high technology business. Interest in it is sustained because many believe that the cleanest non-polluting fuel of the future would be hydrogen. It burns by combining with oxygen to generate energy and the by product is pure water. In simple terms that is the attraction.
But the hard part is to be able to produce hydrogen competitively and handle it safely. Currently it is produced in advanced plants by reformation of natural gas or gasification of coal. Storage is with advanced technologies using metal hydrides. Millions of dollars have rolled in for many years and yet a deployable hydrogen economy is nowhere near ready. The system bristles with technology road blocks.
Amidst all this, John Norris reports the exciting work of a team led by Ms. Suellen A. Van Ooeteghem and five others at the National Energy Centre at Morgantown, WV. The team has discovered a natural, low cost, environmentally benign, low technology method of producing hydrogen using a widely occurring bacteria known as Thermotoga neapolitana. The team found that in bio-reactors similar to those used in wineries these bacteria produces copious quantities of hydrogen.