Swiss researchers have created an ultrafast biomass splitting process using flash light irradiation to convert dried biomass powders such as banana peel into valuable gases and solids, including hydrogen and biochar.
Hubert Girault at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne: “The process works through heating molecules under flashes of intense white light to split molecules into smaller gaseous ones and solids.”
Banana peel contains plenty of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in the form of carbohydrates, water and proteins. The banana peel is initially dried to remove moisture before being ground and sieved to create a thin powder.
Then, in just 14.5 milliseconds, exposure to a flash of a xenon lamp generates 100 litres of hydrogen (along with carbon monoxide, some light hydrocarbons and 330g of solid biochar) per kilogram of banana peel powder.
It’s not only bananas that are ripe for conversion; the process also works with corncob, orange peel, coffee beans and coconut shell, with the potential for a range of other materials that include industrial wastes.
‘This is a novel thermochemical route for producing hydrogen from biomass waste without the need to provide additional heat to the reactor, like in conventional pyrolysis, which can increase costs and greenhouse gases,’ says Ioanna Dimitriou, an expert in the thermochemical conversion of biomass and waste at the University of Nottingham, UK. ‘It also produces high yields of biochar – currently, a promising soil sequestration solution that can achieve significant climate benefits.’