Brazilian researchers have developed a prototype that can turn ethanol into hydrogen for electric cars. The product is now ready to be launched on the national market.
Brazilian researchers have developed equipment that is about to revolutionize the universe of hydrogen generation through renewable sources. It is a compact chemical reactor called a microreactor. In short, it generates onboard hydrogen from ethanol inside electric cars through a fuel cell and generates energy for the electric motor to work.
Brazilian researchers from FEQ Unicamp develop 5CM prototype
This project is already in scale for use and was developed by researchers from the Laboratory of Optimization, Design and Advanced Control (LOPCA) of the Faculty of Chemical Engineering of the University of Campinas (FEQ Unicamp).
It is important to note that the prototype, the heart of the system, is only 5 centimeters long. Because of these characteristics, the efficiency and control of the reactions are improved when compared to common reactors.
The microreactor for electric cars is a reformer with reduced dimensions, through which ethanol is fed on one side and hydrogen is obtained on the other. Chemical reactions take place in a confined space and bring the benefits of process intensification, increasing heat and mass transfers and, therefore, generating high ethanol conversions in a very short time.
Understand how the equipment of Brazilian researchers works
The plates that feature a mesh of microchannels are developed in 3D printing on specific equipment for metal. With the use of additive manufacturing in production processes, it is possible to make use of design and topological optimization software.
The number of microreactors to power electric cars depends a lot on the specifications. To scale up to the power that is sufficient for the model, it is necessary to multiply the number of reaction modules.
According to the Brazilian researchers, ethanol was chosen because it is a biofuel produced on a large scale in the country, thus, there is already knowledge of storing and handling this substance.
In addition, there is national production infrastructure that generates jobs and income. The reduction of pollutant emissions is another advantage. Although the reform of ethanol to obtain hydrogen from electric cars can generate an amount of carbon in the process, this emission can be zeroed when considering the entire agro-industrial chain.
Project for electric cars can now enter production scale
According to the professor of Chemical Engineering at Unicamp and coordinator of the LOPCA, Rubens Maciel Filho, the technology is now ready to be used by electric car owners in the Brazilian market.
Brazilian researchers already have full mastery of 3D printing technology in metals, polymers and ceramics and have been working on this subject since 2000, in this way it is already possible to enter an industrial production scale.
Also according to Rubens, manufacturing technology is of worldwide interest and its application to produce hydrogen from ethanol will certainly arouse interest in several countries that generate ethanol and even in those that do not, but can buy it.