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Hydrogen

Waste Biomass to Renewable Hydrogen

  • $1.05m

    ARENA Funding

  • $2.56m

    Total Project Value

  • Project basics

    ARENA Program

    Advancing renewables

    Lead Organisation

    University of New South Wales

    Start Date

    Aug 2018

    Project Partners

    Beijing Origin Water Technology Co. Ltd, Apricus Energy

    Location

    New South Wales

    Status

    Current

Project Basics

ARENA Program

Advancing renewables

Lead Organisation

University of New South Wales

Start Date

Aug 2018

Project Partners

Beijing Origin Water Technology Co. Ltd, Apricus Energy

Location

New South Wales

Status

Current

Summary

Extracting hydrogen from biomass represents a valuable approach by which a waste organic stream can be converted into hydrogen (or hydrogen-carriers) for downstream use or as an exportable commodity. The project aims to develop a biomass reforming system capable of extracting hydrogen and/or hydrogen-carriers – such as bio-alcohols and bio-acids – from biomass. The biomass reforming system will comprise a biomass pre-conditioning reactor (BPR) coupled with a flow electrolyser cell (FEC) to produce renewable hydrogen without any carbon dioxide emissions.

How the project works

Biomass is fed into the BPR where it is transformed into bio-alcohol/bio-acid hydrogen-carrying compounds. The BPR product stream is then passed into the FEC where the hydrogen is extracted and recovered. Energy requirements for the BPR (heat) and the FEC (electricity) are provided by the sun, captured using a solar concentrator (SC) tube array and a photovoltaic (PV) cell, respectively. The reforming system will be used to treat biomass provided by Beijing Origin Water Technology.

Area of innovation

The project contains two innovative aspects:

  1. Teaming the BPR with the FEC to convert waste biomass into renewable hydrogen gas or a hydrogen-carrier for export. The FEC effluent will also contain valuable organic by-products which can partly off-set system costs;
  2. Using an electrocatalyst in conjunction with a radical mediator in the FEC to reduce electrical energy demand and improve conversion. The radical mediator is an organic catalyst that is added to the FEC to assist with extracting hydrogen from the preconditioned biomass feed.

Benefit

Using biomass as a hydrogen source in the FEC has energy and economic advantages.Pre-conditioned biomass (from a raw biomass stream) can be provided at a very low cost. Electrocatalytic hydrogen extraction from the pre-conditioned biomass is generally easier than water electrolysis (i.e. water splitting). Biomass reforming by electrocatalysis is selective and scalable, delivers zero carbon dioxide emissions and can produce value-added organic products which can potentially serve as precursors for plastics fabrication. Development of the technology will help Australia become more competitive in generating and exporting renewable hydrogen and hydrogen-carriers.

Contact information

Jason Scott, Associate Professor

jason.scott@unsw.edu.au