Researchers from the University of Newcastle in Australia have used a system that combines solar energy with water harvested from air to manufacture low cost green hydrogen.
Professor Behdad Moghtaderi and his team said the technique overcomes some of the key challenges limiting domestic production and availability of hydrogen fuel.
The technology employs Moghtaderi’s Hydro Harvester – an innovation that ‘harvests’ pure water (H2O) from the air, then uses electrolysis – an electrical current generated from solar panels, to split the pure water into hydrogen and oxygen before storing the hydrogen as a gas.
Moghtaderi said the pilot plant, located at the University’s Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) precinct, offered key advantages that could rapidly boost domestic hydrogen production capabilities.
“By harvesting water from the air we aren’t placing added pressure on potable water supplies for drinking and household use, which in climates like ours is a long-term consideration for viability,” said Moghtaderi.
“Importantly, the water we produce via our Hydro Harvester technology is so pure it can be directly fed into the electrolyser, which is a huge advantage over other sources of water.”
“Sea water, wastewater or even tap water require multiple treatment steps to reach the level of purity required in electrolysis. By removing the need for treatment, we can dramatically reduce hydrogen production cost.”
“We’ve developed a scalable system. Our pilot plant demonstrator produces one kilo of hydrogen a day, however a commercial scale system could produce thousands of kilos per day.”
Moghtaderi and his industry partners are currently in discussions with an international car manufacturer to demonstrate his green hydrogen at one of their Sydney based locations.
“We’re very excited to test our first-of-its-kind green hydrogen fuel in hydrogen cars. We’re hoping to commence testing by the end of the year,” he said.
“Hydrogen is such an attractive fuel because its only by-product after oxidation (e.g. in a fuel cell or in an internal combustion engine) is water.”
“It’s also the most abundant element in the universe – it makes up three quarters of all mass on earth.”
Hydrogen to your door
Moghtaderi’s team has partnered with Southern Green Gas on the hydrogen innovation initiative and are also developing ways to combine their green hydrogen with carbon dioxide (also extracted from the air), as a ‘carrier’ or way to readily transport hydrogen.
“As part of an ARENA funded project, we’re combining carbon dioxide with our green hydrogen to make renewable methane,” said Moghtaderi.
“This allows us to easily transport hydrogen over large distances using the existing natural gas pipelines.”
“At the point of use green methane can be converted back to hydrogen or used as-is in households as a renewable form of natural gas.”
The green methane technology will be demonstrated at a gas hub near Roma in Queensland where it will produce approximately 620kg of hydrogen per year, converting it into 74 gigajoules of methane that can then be injected into the existing network of natural gas pipelines across the East Coast gas grid.
Moghtaderi said the initiative was aimed at the decarbonisation of Australia’s existing gas infrastructure.