Researchers at UPEI experimenting with hydrogen production from potato peels




Researchers at UPEI experimenting with hydrogen production from potato peels.


CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Researchers at UPEI are experimenting on food scraps, wood and UV light to produce hydrogen gas.


Yulin Hu, an assistant professor of engineering at UPEI, is conducting research into green energy, using potato peels to produce syngas.


In a simulation published in the Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering in October, Hu and her colleagues proved the viability of potato waste as a method for producing hydrogen.


Yulin Hu, an assistant professor of engineering at UPEI, said in an interview with SaltWire on Oct. 26.


Hydrogen is green fuel. And I think it’s the future, because hydrogen has three times the energy content of gasoline and diesel fuels, and when we burn it, it’s just water.


Hu said this project started through a desire to combat food waste while also improving the feasibility of syngas production.


Cavendish farms in P.E.I. had a similar experiment ongoing before Hu’s research began, turning potato peels into biofuels in large tanks at one of its processing facilities.


When her colleagues informed her about that experiment, Hu began to consider alternative uses for potato waste.


“I was thinking, ‘Are there any other alternative solutions that we can also value this potato waste?’”


The experiment has received funding from the Climate Challenge Fund, Mitacs and AKA Energy Systems, which will be used to expand and improve the laboratory experiments Hu and her colleagues will conduct at UPEI.


Nasim Mia, a graduate research student and teaching assistant at UPEI, is one of the researchers working with Hu to generate hydrogen for green fuels.


In addition to working on the co-gasification simulation and experiment, Mia is conducting research into the benefits of UV light to hydrogen production.


Mia’s laboratory experiment involves a darkened box, multiple UV light bulbs and fluid-filled vials that Mia mechanically agitates to produce hydrogen.


Nasim Mia, a graduate research student and teaching assistant at UPEI,


I check it every day, and we measure the gas with the syringes.


Mia has also received funding from Mitacs and AKA for his experiment generating hydrogen from UV light at UPEI.


“The UV is better than visible light, but it takes longer, we will see,”


This experiment will take more time than the co-gasification of the potato peels and sawdust, but both are vital to understanding the viability of syngas production.


Alongside the potato gasification research, Hu is studying carbon absorption in partnership with Dalhousie University, experimenting on stopgap measures for society’s path to a greener future. Hu and her research team conducted several simulations, publishing a paper on the promising results.


“Even though we know the hydrogen is a very green fuel, how can we shift from petroleum-based to hydrogen-based? It will take a decade, at least.”


Hu wanted to find a way to combat the emissions from fossil fuels during society’s transition to greener technology and is working with Dalhousie University in Halifax on an experiment using sawdust as a CO2 absorbent.


“It seems like a very good way, but we still have to further modify the materials,” Hu said.


Hu’s primary experiment and research focus is the hydrogen fuel experiment, which is intended to help advance green energy and replace petroleum.


By working on a stopgap measure in conjunction with gasification experiments, Hu hopes to ease the transition from fossil fuels to greener alternatives while still reducing the environmental impact of current fossil fuels.


Hu estimated the laboratory process of the potato experiment will take several years to complete, but thanks to the proven success of the published simulation she anticipates strong results.



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