Never underestimate the power of eggs: a team of engineers from Ohio State University has developed an innovative process for sopping up carbon dioxide in a reaction that generates hydrogen fuel - using discarded eggshells. As an added bonus, the reaction results in the removal of collagen from the inside of the shells - a valuable protein with commercial applications (in food, drugs and medical treatments).
"The key to making pure hydrogen is separating out the carbon dioxide. In order to do it very economically, we needed a new way of thinking, a new process scheme," said L.S. Fan, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the university who helped devise the new technique. Eggshells, which mainly consist of calcium carbonate, can be turned into calcium oxide through a heat processing reaction. Calcium oxide is extremely effective at absorbing acidic gases like carbon dioxide.The eggshells became the basis for Fan's hydrogen fuel-producing method, a variant on the water-gas-shift reaction - a reaction in which fossil fuels are gasified to produce carbon monoxide, which then combines with water to generate carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Based on previous experiments, Fan estimates that ground-up eggshells could capture as much as 78% of carbon dioxide by weight.
As promising as this may sound, we're still a long ways from providing the whole country with eggshell-based hydrogen fuel (we're talking small amounts here) - a reality Fan readily acknowledges: "Eggshell alone may not be adequate to produce hydrogen for the whole country, but at least we can use eggshell in a better way compared to dumping it as organic waste in landfills, where companies have to pay up to $40 dollars per ton disposal cost." Better start saving 'em now.