A team of researchers from the University of Strathclyde have claimed that solar energy can be used for large-scale hydrogen energy production. Although hydrogen is one of the cleanest sources of energy, 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 responsible for 95% of the hydrogen produced in the country.
Due to these fossil fuel-based hydrogen production methods, greenhouse gases in large quantities are released into the atmosphere. These gases are exacerbating the climate change crisis our planet is experiencing. However, this can be avoided if we find a green and sustainable way to produce hydrogen.
Scientists from the University of Strathclyde proposed such an approach in their recent study published in Angewandte Chemie, a scientific journal run by German Chemical Society.
Practical approach to green hydrogen fuel production
Producing green hydrogen from water requires a material that can trigger the breakdown of water into hydrogen & oxygen using light. Such a material is called a photocatalyst. Scientists have used sacrificial electron donors to produce hydrogen in many previous experiments.
Although these agents can increase hydrogen yield by reducing the tendency of electrons & holes to recombine, they cannot be used for large-scale hydrogen production. The University of Strathclyde researcher claims that stored hydrogen can be produced in large quantities by performing photocatalysis water in the presence of sunlight using a particulate conjugate polymer containing a metal-catalyst. like iridium.
When asked about the importance of conjugate polymers, lead researcher Sebastian Sprick: “Conjugated polymers (loaded with materials like Iridium) have significant potential due to their tunability by chemical synthesis allowing for better material design in future.” However, because Iridium is a rare material, Sprick added, “research will now focus on replacing these rare metal catalysts to allow for scaling the material to effectively counter the production of hydrogen for large-scale .
Several previous studies have confirmed that the biggest challenge in green hydrogen production is ensuring the availability of a huge source of renewable power.. Since solar energy is a renewable & easily accessible source of energy, it is available in abundant quantities on Earth. Sprick and his team of researchers reveal that photocatalytic water splitting under the influence of sunlight could prove to be the cleanest & most efficient way to produce green hydrogen on a large scale.
For example, the amount of solar energy that reaches Earth in one hour is more than enough to meet the world’s energy needs for an entire year. A research paper published last year in the journal Nature also shows that solar-powered photocatalysis is a very efficient & economical hydrogen production technique.
According to Sprick, “The photocatalyst is reported to be able to access solar energy through energetically unfavorable processes to generate a stored energy carrier in the form of hydrogen from water. The hydrogen can then be is converted cleanly to electricity in a fuel cell with Water is the only side-product.
Is green hydrogen the future?
Hydrogen produced by solar photocatalysis using conjugate polymers does not result in carbon emissions. In addition, no greenhouse gases are released when this hydrogen is converted into a hydrogen fuel cell. Therefore, almost clean & 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 & reduce carbon emissions globally. Industries such as shipping, oil refining, transportation and aerospace are currently generating a lot of pollution as traditional fuels can become virtually pollution-free by using green hydrogen.
Last year, the UK government announced it was aiming to produce enough hydrogen by 2030 to meet the energy needs of 3 million homes. The country’s national grid system is also developing a hydrogen-powered network to generate clean electricity. The French government is making huge investments to increase green hydrogen production. A market study suggests that France will invest $7.28 billion (7 billion euros) by the end of the decade to achieve its green hydrogen goals.
Many countries & companies have realized that green hydrogen is the fuel of the future. It’s green, it’s efficient, and it can help accelerate our efforts to combat climate change. However, researchers at the University of Strathclyde say there are still many challenges on the path to sustainable green hydrogen production, and they are working on these challenges.