UJI researchers study clean hydrogen creation from waste and sunlight

The “big challenge” of creating green hydrogen at a reasonable price using a system based on nanocrystals is being tackled by researchers from the Institute of Advanced Materials of the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) of Castellón.

Through the OHPERA project, the researchers are developing an optimized electrolyser based on lead-free perovskite nanocrystals to show how it is possible to create green hydrogen and high-value chemical compounds from industrial waste using just sunlight as a renewable energy source.

Sixto Giménez, the project coordinator and one of the researchers leading the work at the University of Castellón along with Iván Mora Seró, explained this. They are both members of a group of research institutions and businesses that collaborate to produce hydrogen fuel efficiently using solar energy.

The European Innovation Council has allocated 3.2 million euros to this extremely complicated project, of which 700,000 go to the UJI, where fifteen researchers will labor for a total of four years.

In other words, it involves “using sunlight, generating hydrogen, and replacing the oxidation reaction of water with an alternative waste recovery reaction that needs less energy”, in order to address the circular economy challenge and the recovery of waste to produce products chemicals with high added value at a competitive price.

The goal of the UJI researchers is to design and produce these materials without using lead because these perosvkitas “contain lead, which is exceedingly dangerous.” And that implies “a gigantic scientific challenge,” the expert said.

These materials lose their extraordinary physical characteristics when lead is removed, so “our objective, he points out, is to replace it with a benign and abundant material” that maintains good physical characteristics and is stable in an aquatic environment.

In order to maximize the commercial impact of OHPERA, Sixto Giménez guarantees that the European Innovation Council is interested in funding projects that could result in new marketable developments or new technology-based businesses. He also actively encourages the identification of the project’s market-potential-rich components.

Five other organizations, including an Israeli university (Ben Gurion University of the Negev, BGU), a Spanish research institute (Catalan Institute for Chemical Research, ICIQ), a German research institute (Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin, HZB), a Spanish company (LOMARTOV SL), and a Hungarian company, are working with the UJI INAM team on these developments (ECHEMICLES).