New electrolysis method to generate hydrogen efficiently

A group of scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) investigated a water-splitting technique known as solar thermochemical hydrogen (STCH), which may be more energy-efficient than the conventional electrolysis procedure for hydrogen production.

Hydrogen is a potential alternative for fossil fuels in transportation, ammonia manufacturing, and other industrial applications because of its ability to retain energy derived from renewable resources.

The new research, titled System and Techno-economic Analysis of Solar Thermochemical Hydrogen Production, is published in the journal Renewable Energy.

Photovoltaics are used in conventional electrolysis to turn sunlight into electricity. However, the PV cells now in use collect only a portion of solar light. NREL scientists investigated concentrated solar thermal (CST) electricity for STCH, which employs the full electromagnetic spectrum.

Perovskites, according to the NREL experts, are likely to play a major role in the renewable production of hydrogen. The research corresponds with the Hydrogen Energy Earthshot program of the U.S. Department of Energy. In a decade, the Biden administration intends to reduce the price of clean hydrogen by 80 percent, bringing it down to $1 a kilogram.

The newly developed water electrolysis technique at NREL makes use of the full spectrum of solar radiation, resulting in increased solar energy conversion efficiency. The team asserted that a preferred architecture for hydrogen synthesis involves a directly irradiated solar receiver reactor for the high-temperature stage. The scientists next imagined a receiver architecture and accompanying solar field arrangement in order to test the method’s operating limits.

The design was also utilized to investigate the $2/kg hydrogen goal’s component costs and sensitivity characteristics.

One of the co-authors remarked, “The material has not definitely been discovered, but this analysis provides some estimates for the expenses if the materials meet some of the research community’s goals and expectations.”

In the conventional electrolysis process, water is divided into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity. The solar thermochemical generation of hydrogen is a two-step chemical process. In the first phase, metal oxides are heated to temperatures above 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. The second method for producing hydrogen involves reoxidizing metal oxides with steam at lower temperatures.

As an alternative to fossil fuels, companies all over the world are rushing to manufacture clean hydrogen.

In Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, Hygenco, an Indian company sponsored by solar developer Vivaan Solar, recently installed India’s first-ever off-grid solar photovoltaic-based green hydrogen pilot plant. The green hydrogen pilot plant is managed by an advanced energy management and control system (ECMS). The company said that the pilot plant in Ujjain is 100 percent eco-friendly, entirely grid-independent, and fossil-fueled.

Indian scientists from CSIR-IICT in Hyderabad created a fluidized bed reactor (FBR) facility to manufacture the cleanest form of clean hydrogen last month.

Nedim Husomanovic

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