Renewable hydrogen energy - an answer to the energy crisis

Apr 19, 2007

Harvesting solar energy to produce renewable, carbon free and cost effective hydrogen as an alternative energy source is the focus of a new £4.2 million research programme at Imperial College London, it is announced.

The College’s Energy Futures Lab receives the funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The programme will develop both biological and chemical solar driven processes to develop renewable and cost effective methods of producing hydrogen which can be used to operate fuel cells. Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that can convert hydrogen to electricity and heat at a very high efficiency, with the only emissions being clean water.

Scientists believe that hydrogen could be an effective solution to reducing the world’s dependence on non-renewable carbon-producing fossil fuels because it is clean, portable and versatile. Professor Nigel Brandon, Principal Investigator on the project and Director of the Energy Futures Lab, says:

"The successful production of solar energy-driven renewable hydrogen could transform the supply of carbon free fuel and make an enormous impact on the viability of hydrogen as an energy carrier. In addition, it will be an essential step on the route to fully exploiting fuel cell technology. It will position the UK as a world leader in one of the very few solutions to a truly sustainable energy future."

Spanning five years, the project aims to significantly increase the efficiency of solar driven hydrogen production processes, integrating science and engineering to deliver a prototype reactor for domestic and industrial use. This will create a unique facility, which the team hopes will place Imperial College and the UK at the forefront of renewable hydrogen production, both for the UK’s own future clean energy supply and also for the sustainable exploitation of hydrogen energy worldwide.

The project aims to develop materials and technologies for the enhanced production of hydrogen from water using solar energy to drive the process. The biological process will mimic how plants work, using green algae. The oxygen and hydrogen produced will then be separated and the hydrogen stored, ready for use in a fuel cell. The chemical process will use photo-electrodes to directly split water into molecular oxygen and hydrogen using both inorganic electrodes and molecular catalysts whose function will mimic the water oxidation enzyme of plant photosynthesis.

The project will culminate in the design, build and operation of a working prototype system, with the aim of demonstrating that solar energy can be directly harvested to produce hydrogen, and in turn cost effective electricity and heat.

EPSRC Interim Chief Executive, Dr Randal Richards says:

"This is excellent, exciting, multidisciplinary research. It is also the first time that we have funded a project of this size in the area of solar hydrogen production. This work has enormous potential to speed up the development of competitive alternatives to fossil fuels. It will significantly strengthen the UK’s contribution to the international effort to deliver new sustainable energy technologies."

The programme draws together a new interdisciplinary team from across Imperial College, under the umbrella of the Energy Futures Lab, with Professor Nigel Brandon as the Principal Investigator. The team comprises Jim Barber (Molecular Biosciences), James Durrant (photochemistry), Klaus Hellgardt (catalytic reactor engineering), Geoff Kelsall (electrochemical reactor engineering), David Klug (molecular energy transduction), Geoff Maitland (energy engineering), and Peter Nixon (Biology).

Source: Imperial College London

Explore further: Pollution top concern for U.S. and Canadian citizens around Great Lakes

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New study outlines 'water world' theory of life's origins

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed ...

Research group to study interstellar molecules

Apr 11, 2014

From April 2014, a new group will study interstellar molecules and use them to explore the entire star and planet formation process at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. Newly appointed ...

Recommended for you

Obama launches measures to support solar energy in US

Apr 17, 2014

The White House Thursday announced a series of measures aimed at increasing solar energy production in the United States, particularly by encouraging the installation of solar panels in public spaces.

Tailored approach key to cookstove uptake

Apr 17, 2014

Worldwide, programs aiming to give safe, efficient cooking stoves to people in developing countries haven't had complete success—and local research has looked into why.

User comments : 0

More news stories

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...