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UCF Today: UCF Develops New Methods for Clean Energy Production

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Article written by Kathleen Snoeblen

A pair of University of Central Florida researchers has developed new methods to produce energy and materials from the harmful greenhouse gas, methane.

Pound-for-pound, the comparative impact of methane on the Earth’s atmosphere is 28 times greater than carbon dioxide — another major greenhouse gas — over a 100-year period, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This is because methane is more efficient at trapping radiations, despite having a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Major sources of methane emissions include energy and industry, agriculture and landfills.

The new UCF innovations enable methane to be used in green energy production and to create high-performance materials for smart devices, biotechnology, solar cells and more.

The inventions come from nanotechnologist Laurene Tetard and catalysis expert Richard Blair, who have been research collaborators at UCF for the past 10 years.

Tetard is an associate professor and associate chair of UCF’s Department of Physics and a researcher with the NanoScience Technology Center, and Blair is a research professor at UCF’s Florida Space Institute.

A Better, Cleaner Technology for Producing Hydrogen

The first invention is a method to produce hydrogen from hydrocarbons, such as methane, without releasing carbon gas.

By using visible light — such as a laser, lamp or solar source — and defect-engineered boron-rich photocatalysts, the innovation highlights a new functionality of nanoscale materials for visible light-assisted capture and the conversion of hydrocarbons like methane. Defect engineering refers to creating irregularly structured materials.

The UCF invention produces hydrogen that is free from contaminants, such as higher polyaromatic compounds, carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide, that are common in reactions performed at higher temperatures on conventional catalysts.

The development can potentially lower the cost of catalysts used for creating energy, allow for more photocatalytic conversion in the visible range, and enables more efficient use of solar energy for catalysis.

Market applications include possible large-scale production of hydrogen in solar farms and the capture and conversion of methane…

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