Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Save those cobs...

Behold, the lowly corncob has found a new role in energy efficiency.

Using corncob waste as a starting material, researchers at University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) and Midwest Research Institute (MRI) in Kansas City have created carbon briquettes with complex nanopores capable of storing natural gas at an unprecedented density of 180 times their own volume and at one seventh the pressure of conventional natural gas tanks. The technology has been incorporated into a test bed installed on a pickup truck used regularly by the Kansas City Office of Environmental Quality.

"We are very excited about this breakthrough because it may lead to a flat and compact tank that would fit under the floor of a passenger car, similar to current gasoline tanks," said principal project leader Peter Pfeifer of MU. "Such a technology would make natural gas a widely attractive alternative fuel for everyone." [More]

While this strikes me as one of those gee-whiz energy ideas tumbling out of research labs everywhere today, the political push for the biofuel solution may keep it just a curiosity. On the other hand, rather than being used for cars, what if we could store and handle methane (natural gas) as easily as propane? It would mean a lot cheaper heating.


Anonymous said...

There was a time when corn cobs were readily available. Where are we going to get them now?

John Phipps said...

Hey - that thought occurred to me. Maybe seed corn/sweet corn plants?