Stinky Landfills Might Soon Generate Clean Energy

Hydrogen can be devastating, but in the right hands, it can also be awesome. When burned, for instance, it emits only water vapor instead of nasty carbon dioxide that's responsible for much of the climate change we see today. Now, researchers have discovered a way to convert methane — the same gas that makes landfills stinky — into hydrogen by making it react with carbon dioxide itself.

This hydrogen can then be used to generate clean electricity for powering homes, offices and hospitals. Turns out that stinky landfills are the perfect place to find all these gases in a single place.

So far, however, finding the right catalyst for this conversion has been a challenge, explains Fabio B. Noronha, a researcher with the National Institute of Technology in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, to The catalyst gets smothered by carbon, which forms as a contaminant during the conversion process and eventually stops the whole thing from working.

To solve this problem, Noronha's team developed a new catalyst material that removes the carbon as soon as it is formed. This approach is based on the automotive catalysts developed in the past to control car and truck emissions, he adds.

Right now, researchers are testing this out in lab conditions. But as soon as the new, stable catalyst is ready, says, the technology should be ready to roll out to everyone. []