18 Oct Virent receives $2 million boost for hydrogen energy research
Madison, Wis. — Virent, a University of Wisconsin-Madison spinoff working on hydrogen energy sources, has received a $2 million grant from the Department of Energy for continued research.
The company is trying to generate hydrogen fuel directly from water and sugar in a one-step process as part of a car’s engine or an electrical generator. This could evade some of the problems of storing hydrogen, a highly explosive gas.
The company’s previous research has been directed at finding a chemical catalyst to make the process work. UW-Madison professor James Dumesic, a co-founder, presented research at the university’s nanotechnology conference earlier this year showing that platinum and a less expensive nickel-tin mixture both worked well.
Eric Apfelbach, Virent’s chief executive officer, said the applications extended beyond hydrogen-powered cars, though that is the major goal of the Department of Energy grant. The technology may someday be compact enough to fit in place of a laptop battery.
In engines, the hydrogen could be used in fuel cells or burned in place of gasoline, said Randy Corright, a UW-Madison professor who worked with Dumesic on the original invention.