Can food waste be turned into green hydrogen to produce electricity?

West Lafayette, Indiana-based Purdue Research Foundation recently completed a licensing agreement with an international energy company – the name of which was not disclosed – for the commercialization of a new process discovered at Purdue University Northwest (PNW) for the biological production of green hydrogen from food waste. A second licensing agreement with a company in Indiana is under negotiation.

Food waste into green hydrogen

Researchers say that this new process, which uses food waste to biologically produce hydrogen, can be used as a clean energy source for producing electricity, as well as for chemical and industrial processes or as a transportation fuel.

Robert Kramer, professor of physics in Purdue University Northwest’s Department of Chemistry and Physics, works to create hydrogen from food waste. Photo: Robert Kramer

Robert Kramer, professor of physics at PNW and principal investigator for the research, says that more than 30% of all food, amounting to $48 billion, is wasted in the United States each year. That waste could be used to create hydrogen, a sustainable energy source. When hydrogen is combusted, the only byproduct is water vapor.

Kramer said:

The developed process has a high production rate and can be implemented quickly. The process is robust, reliable, and economically viable for local energy production and processes.

The research team has received five grants from the US Department of Energy and the Purdue Research Foundation totaling around $800,000 over the last eight years to develop the science and technology that led to this process.

Two patents have been issued, and a third patent is currently in the final stages of approval. Over the next nine months, a scale-up test will be conducted. Based upon test results, it is anticipated that construction could start on the first commercial prototype within a year.

Last week, a facility designed to turn non-recyclable plastics into green hydrogen was approved in the UK. It is the second facility of its kind there.

Read more: UK’s NHS unveils new hydrogen-electric ambulances at COP26

Photo: Ray Piedra on

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Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.