Indian scientists generate hydrogen from agricultural residue: Could power EVs

The Indian government along with many nations and companies are looking for fossil fuel alternatives to power vehicles. Whether battery-electric or even explore the Hydrogen fuel cell. Indian scientists may have just found an unconventional breakthrough for the latter.

By:August 13, 2021 12:01 PM
For representational purposes only

Battery Electric Vehicles are something that is catching on quite quickly. However, the technology still has its issues, but as time progresses, so does the technology and the ecosystem with it. Another technology that could power vehicles in the future is Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles. But this technology also has its issues. However, Indian scientists from Sentient Labs, a Research and Development innovation lab, with the MACS – Agharkar Research Institute (ARI) have developed the first of its kind technology. Its creators claim that they have devised a process to generate hydrogen directly from agricultural residue. They say that it could be used to power fuel-cell vehicles.

Sentient Labs has been working on identifying bottlenecks in battery technology and fuel cell technology and hydrogen generation. MACS-ARI has also been committed to conduct basic and applied research in life sciences and harness the genetic diversity of microbes for bio-energy generation and has been working towards developing solutions that are appropriate for national use.

Hydrogen fuel-cell technology is said to be the next big step in sustainable mobility, or a parallel technology to go alongside BEVs. Sentient Labs states that the technology would most likely be beneficial and suitable for commercial vehicles and would leave a minimal environmental footprint.

How it works

The technology developed by the team uses agricultural residue rich in cellulose and hemicellulose content – in likes of paddy, wheat, or maize residue. The process uses microbial culture for the direct generation of hydrogen from agricultural residues. It then generates methane which is utilised for producing additional hydrogen by steam methane reformation. The benefit of this process helps avoid the burning of bio-mass generated in large measure.

Dr. Prashant Dhakephalkar, Director at ARI claims that the technology is 25% more efficient as compared to conventional anaerobic digestion processes used today.

Ravi Pandit, Chairman, Sentient Labs said, “This breakthrough of generating hydrogen from unutilized agricultural residue will help us become self-reliant on energy resources. It will also add a major stream of revenue to the farmer community.  We will continue R&D and invite partners to come on board for production and commercialising the same.”

Sentient Labs claims that 200 million tons of unutilised agricultural residue is generated in India. Most of this residue is burnt, but now it can be fed into this process to generate hydrogen.

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