Firm licenses PNW process that can be used as sustainable energy source • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine
PNW-researcher food waste

Firm licenses PNW process that can be used as sustainable energy source

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PNW-researcher food waste
Robert Kramer, professor of Physics at Purdue University Northwest, works on his innovation to create hydrogen from food waste. (Photo provided by Purdue University Northwest)

A process developed at Purdue University Northwest, which can be used as a sustainable energy source to produce electricity, has been licensed by an energy company.

The Purdue Research Foundation recently completed a licensing agreement with an international energy company for the commercialization of a new process discovered at PNW for the biological production of hydrogen from food waste. A second licensing agreement with a company in Indiana is under negotiation, PNW said.

This new process also can be used for chemical and industrial production or as a transportation fuel, PNW said.

Robert Kramer, professor of physics at PNW and principal investigator for the research, said more than 30% of all food, amounting to $48 billion, is wasted in the U.S. annually. That waste could be used in the developed process to create hydrogen, a sustainable energy source that does not cause environmental issues.

“The developed process has a high production rate and can be implemented quickly,” said Kramer. “The process is robust, reliable and economically viable for local energy production and processes.”

When hydrogen is combusted, the only byproduct is water vapor, he said.

The research team consisting of Kramer, Libbie Pelter, associate professor of chemistry at PNW and John Patterson, associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at Purdue West Lafayette, has received five grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Purdue Research Foundation totaling approximately $800,000 over the last eight years to develop the science and technology, which lead to developing the process.

Two patents have been issued for the process and a third patent is in nearing approval, PNW said.

Over the next nine months, a scale up test will be conducted and based upon test results, it is anticipated that construction could start on the first commercial prototype within one year, PNW said.

Hydrogen is light, storable, transportable, energy-dense and produces no direct emissions of pollutants or greenhouse gases, PNW said. Unlike fossil fuels, combustion of hydrogen does not produce carbon dioxide or oxides of nitrogen and sulfur.

Hydrogen also has a higher energy yield than hydrocarbons, according to the research team.

Currently, annual global hydrogen production is estimated at 70 million tons with natural gas as the primary source for this production. The process developed at PNW uses what would otherwise be wasted food to produce hydrogen biologically.  


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