Skip to Content
Find More Like This
Return to Search

Autothermal Partial Oxidation of Ethanol and Alcohols

Syngas from Autothermal Reforming of Ethanol

DOE Grant Recipients

University of Minnesota

Contact University of Minnesota About This Technology

Technology Marketing Summary

Autothermal Reforming of Ethanol and Alcohols into Syngas

Ethanol and alcohols can be converted into syngas using a robust autothermal reforming process. Syngas is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen that can be used to synthesize other chemicals or directly as a fuel. The recent advancements in fuel cell technology have spurred an interest in converting alcohols into hydrogen rich gas streams. This robust method enables the conversion of a nontoxic liquid such as an ethanol-water mixture into hydrogen to power fuel cells. The hydrogen is produced by partial oxidation, which requires less heat and occurs more rapidly than the process of steam reforming. Unlike most conversion methods, this process is completely autothermal and does not require energy input to convert the gas. The conversion is quick and efficient, taking less than 10 milliseconds to complete.


Ethanol as a Fossil Fuel Alternative

The autothermal reforming process produces hydrogen from ethanol and other alcohols. Ethanol is easy to transport and nontoxic. Ethanol is also less expensive than fossil fuels. This process is different from ordinary combustion methods, which burn ethanol to produce water and carbon dioxide. Because the process does not produce carbon dioxide, it does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. The reactor feeds hydrogen into fuel cells, where it will be burned to produce energy. Fuel cells are an efficient energy source and generate 3x more power than car engines.



  • Rapid Reaction--takes less than 10 milliseconds to complete the conversion
  • Less Expensive--ethanol is a fossil fuel alternative and is less expensive
  • Autothermal reforming process-- requires no energy input
  • Nontoxic--does not burn ethanol like ordinary combustion
More Information


Lanny Schmidt, Regents Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering and Material Sciences

Dr. Lanny Schmidt received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry in 1960 from Wheaton College, and a Ph.D. degree in Physical Chemistry in 1964 from the University of Chicago, where he was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Robert Gomer supervised his thesis on alkali metal adsorption. After a postdoctoral year at the University of Chicago, he joined the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Minnesota where he is now Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

Dr. Schmidt's research focuses on various aspects of the chemistry and engineering of chemical reactions on solid surfaces. Dr. Schmidt has published over 300 papers in refereed journals. He has supervised approximately 60 Ph.D. theses and 15 M.S. theses at Minnesota, and 11 of his former students hold university teaching positions. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 7,255,848
Production of hydrogen from alcohols
A process for producing hydrogen from ethanol or other alcohols. The alcohol, optionally in combination with water, is contacted with a catalyst comprising rhodium. The overall process is preferably carried out under autothermal conditions.
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated

Contact University of Minnesota About This Technology

To: University of MinnesotaLarry Micek<>