University of Newcastle researchers make green hydrogen from solar power and air

In a remarkable first, a system that combines solar energy with water harvested from air has been used to manufacture low cost green hydrogen – a zero-emissions fuel.

Video supplied by the University of Newcastle

Pioneered by University of Newcastle Professor Behdad Moghtaderi and his team, the technique overcomes some of the key challenges limiting domestic production and availability of hydrogen fuel.

The technology employs Professor 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.

Professor 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 Professor Moghtaderi.

Professor 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.

Southern Green Gas has partnered with Professor Moghtaderi’s team 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 for household use.

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.

To help build Australia’s Hydrogen capability, Professor Moghtaderi and research collaborator Associate Professor Elham Doroodchi will assume leadership roles in a $4.9M Australian Research Council (ARC) Training Centre for the Global Hydrogen Economy.

Associate Professor Doroodchi said the five-year program will generate new technologies locally and equip a workforce of industry focused engineers with advanced skills for development and scaling-up of hydrogen generation and transport.

To read more about the work of Professor Moghtaderi's team, go to the University of Newcastle website here.

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