A team of researchers from the University of Strathclyde has claimed that solar energy can be used for large-scale hydrogen power generation. Although hydrogen is one of the cleanest energy sources, even today most of the hydrogen we produce still comes from fossil fuels. A shocking report from the US Department of Energy reveals that natural gas power plants are sources of 95 percent of hydrogen produced in the country.
Due to these methods of producing hydrogen from fossil fuels, large amounts of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. These gases are aggravating the climate change crisis that our planet is currently going through. However, this can be avoided if we find a green and sustainable way to produce hydrogen.
Scientists from the University of Strathclyde have proposed such a method in their recent study Posted in Angewandte Chemie, a scientific journal run by the German Chemical Society.
The practical approach to green hydrogen production
Producing green hydrogen from water requires a material that could trigger the breakdown of water into hydrogen and oxygen using light. Such a material is called a photocatalyst. Scientists have used sacrificial electron donors for hydrogen production in many previous experiments.
Although these agents can increase hydrogen yield by decreasing the tendency for electrons and holes to recombine, they cannot be used for large-scale hydrogen production. The University of Strathclyde researcher claims that storable hydrogen can be produced in large quantities by photocatalyzing water in the presence of sunlight using a particulate conjugated polymer containing a metal catalyst such as iridium.
Asked about the importance of the conjugated polymer, lead researcher Sebastian Sprick said Interesting engineering, “Conjugated polymers (loaded with materials like Iridium) have great potential due to their tunability by chemical synthesis allowing for better material design in the future.” However, because iridium is a rare material, adds Sprick, “research will now focus on replacing these rare metal catalysts to enable material scale-up to effectively combat hydrogen production at large scale”.
Some previous studies have confirmed that the biggest challenge in the production of green hydrogen is to ensure the availability of a vast source of renewable energy. As solar energy is both an easily accessible and renewable source of energy, it is available in abundant quantities on Earth. Sprick and his team of researchers reveal that photocatalytic separation of water under the influence of sunlight may prove to be the most efficient and cleanest way to produce green hydrogen on a large scale.
For example, the amount of solar energy that reaches the Earth in one hour is more than enough to meet the world’s energy needs for an entire year. A research article published last year in Nature also points out that photocatalysis supported by solar energy is a very efficient and economical hydrogen production technique.
According to Sprick, “The reported photocatalyst can access solar energy through energetically unfavorable processes to generate a storable energy carrier in the form of hydrogen from water. The hydrogen can then be cleanly converted into electricity. in a fuel cell, water being the only by-product.
Is green hydrogen the future?
Hydrogen produced by solar photocatalysis using conjugated polymers does not lead to carbon emissions. In addition, no greenhouse gases are released when this hydrogen is transformed into a hydrogen fuel cell. Therefore, almost clean and green hydrogen production can be achieved using this method.
According to a report by the International Energy Agency, green hydrogen has great potential as it can significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce the global carbon footprint. Industries such as shipping, oil refining, transportation, and aerospace that currently create a lot of pollution due to traditional fuels can become nearly pollution-free by using green hydrogen.
Last year the The British government has announced that by 2030 they aim to produce enough hydrogen to meet the energy demands of three million homes. The country’s national network is also growing a hydrogen-based network to generate clean electricity. The French government is making huge investments to increase its production of green hydrogen. A market study reveals that France invest 7.28 billion dollars (7 billion euros) by the end of this decade to achieve its green hydrogen goals.
Many countries and companies have realized that green hydrogen is the fuel of the future. It’s green, efficient and can help us accelerate our efforts to fight climate change. However, researchers at the University of Strathclyde suggest that there are still many challenges on the path to sustainable green hydrogen production, and they are working on these challenges.