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Hydrogen

Bio Inspired Hydrogen Generation by novel Bubble Free Electro-Catalytic Systems

  • $600k

    ARENA Funding

  • $1.40m

    Total Project Value

  • Project basics

    ARENA Program

    Advancing renewables

    Lead Organisation

    The Australian National University

    Start Date

    Aug 2018

    Project Partners

    University of Wollongong

    Location

    Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales

    Status

    Current

Project Basics

ARENA Program

Advancing renewables

Lead Organisation

The Australian National University

Start Date

Aug 2018

Project Partners

University of Wollongong

Location

Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales

Status

Current

Summary

Electrolysis uses Electrical Energy to convert Water into the Clean Fuel, Hydrogen, with pure Oxygen as a bi-product. This project, using inspiration from Nature, will develop a new Electrolysis Technology, more simple and efficient than any known to operate from pure water and renewably generated electricity.

How the project works

All photosynthetic organisms use energy (from sunlight), to electrolytically convert water into hydrogen (as protons) and oxygen. This occurs within a unique manganese containing catalytic centre, known as the Oxygen Evolving Complex (OEC). Recent advances at ANU have revealed key understanding of this natural electrolysis process, the most efficient known. We have designed novel chemical surfaces (electrodes), mimicking key structures of the OEC. Using these with new ‘Bubble Free’ Gortex electrode technology, from the University of Wollongong, efficient hydrogen generation, from water and totally renewable electricity, will become possible.

Area of innovation

Three things fundamentally limit existing industrial electrolyser performance: i) Catalytic Efficiency at the Electrode Surfaces (ii) Energy Expenditure in Gas Bubble Formation (Hydrogen and Oxygen) (iii) the cost of grid based electricity. Our new technology addresses all of these. It uses cheap, highly efficient, bio-mimetic catalyst films operating on Bubble – Free (‘breathable’, like a raincoat) Gortex Electrode surfaces. It readily functions with time variable electrical input, so able to optimally use power from renewable electrical sources, which are typically time/seasonably fluctuating.

Benefit

Hydrogen is the carbon free ‘Fuel of the Future’. Current global hydrogen consumption is over 50 million tons a year, projected to grow substantially. It is mostly Hydrocarbon/Coal sourced, for example coal gasification. Only about 4% is potentially ‘clean’, by Electrolysis. Hydrogen cost from present generation commercial electrolysers, which must operate continuously off grid power, is 3 times that from Steam Reforming/Gassification. However New Generation bio-mimetic and related Electrolysers, using Renewable Electricity Input, from solar/wind generation, could achieve large scale hydrogen generation costs comparable to those from hydrocarbon sources.

Contact information

Prof. (Emeritus) Ronald J. Pace Research School of Chemistry

+61 02 61254546

ron.pace@anu.edu.au