Environmentally friendly hydrogen production and
storage technologies that could be used to power future automobiles are the
focus of three university studies partially funded by the DaimlerChrysler
Challenge Fund. These biotechnologies were part of the Life Sciences
technology display at the 2003 Detroit Science Center Gala May 16 in
"We are proud to support these and other academic projects through the
DaimlerChrysler Challenge Fund," said Bernard Robertson, senior vice
president, Engineering Technologies and Regulatory Affairs. "This
technology is complementary to our core business, and completes the zero
emissions cycle for vehicles that can run on clean, renewable energy
The three featured technologies are:
Hydrogen Production from Algae and Bacteria, Prof. Tasios Melis, PhD.,
University of California, Berkeley.
In this experimental program, hydrogen is produced by algae and bacteria
using sunlight and water. Research in biotechnology provides green algae
that releases hydrogen through photosynthesis. The by-product from the
photosynthesis provides food for the bacteria which also produces hydrogen
through photosynthesis. This may prove to be an ecologically friendly,
renewable source of hydrogen.
Hydrogen Production from Sugar, Prof. James A. Dumesic, PhD., University of
Wisconsin, Randy D. Cortright, PhD., Mary-Rose de Valladares and Damon
Bresenham, Virent Energy Systems, LLC., Madison, Wisconsin.
Hydrogen can be produced from water-soluble carbohydrates such as sugars
and alcohols. This is a renewable source of hydrogen, and this process
offers the opportunity to reform the fuel to make hydrogen on-board the
vehicle in a manner that is safe and nontoxic.
Higher Efficiency Packaging for Compressed Hydrogen, Prof. Lawrence T.
Drzal, PhD., Michigan State University.
Spider Silk fiber may solve several challenges for high-pressure gas
storage necessary with compressed hydrogen. Spider silk is environmentally
friendly, and for its weight, it is one of the strongest materials found in
nature. Spider silk used in this university program to develop
high-strength, lightweight composites has a strength-to-weight ratio, or
specific strength, that is 20 to 45 times stronger than steel. It is
roughly the same as Kevlar or Carbon fiber.
"As important as the fuel cell vehicle itself, is the issue of how the fuel
for these vehicles is produced, " said Thomas S. Moore, vice president and
head of the Liberty & Technical Affairs research group at DaimlerChrysler.
"These research projects, which we are pleased to support through the
DaimlerChrysler Challenge Fund, are addressing two important questions: How
do we produce hydrogen fuel for automobiles using renewable, non-polluting
resources, and how do we store hydrogen fuel onboard the vehicle?"
The DaimlerChrysler Challenge Fund supports a variety of academic research
activities including these aimed at developing and storing hydrogen in
environmental, ecological and renewable methods. This program challenges
select universities to apply their creative resources to targeted
automotive research projects in order to create closer working
relationships with leading universities.