Lanny D. Schmidt - Education and Acclaim - Current Research

Current Research

Professor Schmidt's research since the early 1990s has focused on the catalytic partial oxidation of alkanes (particularly methane) and oxygenates in continuous flow fixed bed supported catalyst reactors. In 2004, Schmidt and his graduate students demonstrated that biomass-derived ethanol could be converted to molecular hydrogen for fuel cell at greater than 100% selectivity. The significant potential of this discovery has been well-described:

There is, however, a better way of storing the hydrogen needed for fuel cells: in ethanol, each molecule of which bundles six hydrogen atoms, two carbon atoms, and one oxygen atom into a package far more compact than gaseous hydrogen. Until recently, no one could figure out how to unbundle the ethanol molecules in an energy-efficient way. But Lanny Schmidt, a chemical engineer at the University of Minnesota, may now have found a silver bullet. He has developed a glass tube containing a series of metal plates about the size of a Bic lighter. Made out of the exotic metals rhodium and cerium, these plates can suck the hydrogen out of ethanol and feed it into a fuel cell. (Ironically, Schmidt had been looking for a catalyst that would strip hydrogen from plain old gasoline, but the ethanol turned out to work even better.)" — Sam Jaffe, Washington Monthly

The discovery has been referenced over 200 times, and it led to Schmidt being listed among the Scientific American top 50 researchers of 2004.

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