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Methanol: The New Hydrogen

March 26, 2006View for printing

Advances in methanol synthesis, coupled with improved fuel cell technology, could make it a viable alternative to gasoline.

Hydrogen has been getting plenty of hype as a potential replacement transportation fuel, for cutting carbon dioxide emissions and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. But methanol would be far better than the more reactive and volatile hydrogen, argues George Olah, a chemist and Nobel laureate, in a new book, Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy.

Olah notes that methanol, a clean-burning liquid, would require only minor modifications to existing engines and fuel-delivery infrastructure (see "The Methanol Economy"). And manufacturing it could even make use of carbon dioxide, a source of global warming. Methanol's benefits have long been understood -- now recent advances in methanol synthesis and methanol fuel cells could make this fuel even more attractive.

By Chandra Shekhar

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