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Cars Powered by New Fuel Type Tested in Australia

There are only a handful of hydrogen-powered cars in Australia, but there are tens of thousands across Japan, South Korea and Singapore

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A Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle is shown ready to be fueled with CSIRO-produced hydrogen. (VOA)

Australian scientists have test driven two cars powered by a carbon-free fuel derived from ammonia. A team from the Australian government’s research agency, the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), says the pioneering technology will allow highly flammable hydrogen to be safely transported in the form of ammonia and used as a widely available fuel.

Researchers have found a way to use a thin membrane to turn Australian-made hydrogen into ammonia. This could be shipped safely to markets in Asia, as well as parts of Europe. At its destination, the liquid ammonia would then be converted back into hydrogen, and used to power cars and buses, as well as for electricity generation and industrial processes.

David Harris, CSIRO research director says “the special thing about the technology that we have is that it allows you to produce very pure hydrogen directly with a membrane system from ammonia.”

The technology has the support of Japanese car maker Toyota and South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Company.

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The technology has the support of Japanese car maker Toyota and South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Company.

‘Watershed moment’

Scientists say hydrogen, a highly-flammable gas that can be volatile and hard to transport safely, creates a low emission fuel for cars. The Australian team describes the membrane technology that separates hydrogen from other gases as a “watershed moment for energy.”

Claire Johnson, the chief executive of Hydrogen Mobility Australia, an industry association, says the pioneering research could forever change the transport sector.

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“We see that as a really exciting opportunity to decarbonize the transport sector, but also position Australia as one of the lead suppliers of hydrogen around the world. There is some competition to play that role, however. Norway, Brunei and Saudi Arabia have all flagged that they wish to be an exporter of hydrogen around the world.”

There are only a handful of hydrogen-powered cars in Australia, but there are tens of thousands across Japan, South Korea and Singapore. The South Korean government has recently announced plans for 16,000 more hydrogen-fueled cars and 310 special refilling stations. (VOA)

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Perth Relies on Recycled Water to Cope up with Climate Change in Australia

Perth is a city of two million people, and Clare Lugar from Western Australia's Water Corporation said it has had to get used to climatic changes

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More than 95 percent of New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, is officially in drought. Wikimedia Commons

As drought-hit towns across New South Wales and Queensland edge closer to completely running out of water, federal and state governments in Australia are trying to come up with ways to guarantee supplies into the future. But on the other side of the continent, the city of Perth is leagues ahead in its water efficiency following a long-term decline in rainfall. Part of its survival plan relies on recycled water from toilets, a move that many consumers elsewhere still consider to be unpalatable.

Since 2017, residents in the Western Australian city of Perth have been drinking water recycled from sewage. It is filtered using a process called reverse osmosis, which is similar to forcing water through a giant sponge. It is then disinfected with ultra-violet light at a treatment plant, pumped into natural aquifers, and extracted.

Perth is a city of two million people, and Clare Lugar from Western Australia’s Water Corporation said it has had to get used to climatic changes. “We know from the mid-70s onwards Perth’s rainfall has been declining by about 20 percent, and that has had a huge impact on our water sources that are dependent on the climate.”

australia, drought, climate change
FILE – The drought-affected Darling River sits well below its banks at Pooncarie, a town in outback western New South Wales, Australia, April 25, 2019. VOA

Lugar said convincing residents of the benefits of drinking recycled sewage did take time. “So, it is only a small percentage of the water that comes into the plant is actually from our toilets. But getting over that perception, that kind of image you might be drinking the water that you flushing down the toilet – that was probably one of our big challenges initially,” said Lugar.

Two desalination plants supply about half of Perth’s water. Aquifers are also crucial, but recycling produces only two percent of the total. But that figure is soon expected to rise. Ian Wright, an expert in environmental science at Western Sydney University, believes other parts of Australia should embrace recycling.

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“In Sydney that is probably 150 liters per day per person of waste water that is completely wasted, and, yes, we have the availability of desalination on the coast, but Canberra does not have desalination and then the poor drought-stricken towns like Tamworth and Dubbo, and Broken Hill, they could really, really use that now,” he said.

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Water is precious, and, in many places, scarce. More than 95 percent of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, is officially in drought, and the next three months are forecast to be drier than average. (VOA)