Tata funds research project on water as auto fuel

Bangalore, December 31: India’s top industrialist Ratan Tata has funded a research project in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to use hydrogen from water as an alternative fuel to drive cars, an eminent scientist said Friday.

‘Tata has given $15 million to fund the research being conducted by MIT professor Daniel Nocera on using water as auto fuel. The project involves generating hydrogen by splitting water and storing it in a safe can to drive an automobile,’ noted scientist C.N.R Rao told reporters at a press meet here.

Tata and Nocera, who owns the patent, plan to set up a start-up for building a prototype can that can store hydrogen in a compressed form and fit it into a car for using as an alternative fuel cost-effectively.

‘As it is Tata’s dream to run his cars on water ultimately, he is funding the project so that he will have control on the innovative technology. He will also be associated with the start-up to develop the prototype, which will have a catalyst to warm up the water and create hydrogen as a fuel,’ Rao said on the eve of 2011 being celebrated as the International Year of Chemistry.

The Pune-based Tata Motors Ltd is a leading manufacturer of passenger vehicles in major segments, including India’s least expensive car Nano, which is priced at Rs.100,000.

‘The challenge is to develop an eco-friendly and efficient energy at low-cost as an alternative to depleting fossil fuels. Water and hydrogen as an alternative source of energy can help us in reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,’ Rao, who is also chairman of the scientific advisory council to the prime minister, pointed out.

The state-run Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advance Scientific Research (JNCASR), headed by Rao, is also doing research to generate hydrogen using graphite as a catalyst.

‘In our lab, we are attempting to create hydrogen by warming up water with graphite, a polymorph of the element carbon. We are working on finding a method to store the natural gas in solid state and converting it into 100 percent energy for various applications,’ Rao said.