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Alternative fuels new challenge for 2030

The practical use of fuel cells for homes has started, but hydrogen is currently being extracted from natural gases. “Formic acid may be an ideal fuel from which to extract hydrogen,” said Masaru Nakahara, a visiting professor at Kyoto University. One technical challenge was how to blow the CO gas into the hot water heated to about 200 C (392 F) at 50-100 atmospheres of pressure. The use of recycled formic acid instead of carbon dioxide also contributes to reducing global warming gases. Prof. Shunichi Fukuzumi of Osaka University has also shown strong interest in formic acid. By applying artificial photosynthesis, he discovered a catalyst that prompts reaction to make the formic acid from hydrogen and CO2. “The catalyst has opened the door to the production of not only formic acid, but also more valuable hydrogen peroxide,” he said. Japan, in its anti-global warming policies, proposed to halve the world’s heat-trapping gas emissions by 2050. This goal can be achieved through technology innovations, Japan insists, but it is clearly too ambitious with currently available technologies, such as electricity generation from solar and wind power and storing CO2 deep underground. (June 22, 2009)