A Yale University professor has received a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a water-splitting device designed for the large-scale production of green hydrogen.
The project is among 22 in the U.S. that will receive a total of $42 million in funding from the DOE. The projects aim to advance critical technologies for producing, storing, and deploying clean hydrogen. All of these projects will be managed by DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office and are in support of the DOE’s “Hydrogen Shot” goal of reducing the cost of clean hydrogen to one dollar per one kilogram in one decade (“1-1-1”).
Shu Hu, assistant professor of chemical & environmental engineering, said the solar-driven device will split water into its two components, oxygen and hydrogen, and collect the hydrogen over a large area. Aiming for record efficiency and stability, the device will capture light and, with a photochemical energy conversion process, shine the light onto a semiconductor made from the mineral perovskite. Absorbing the light, the semiconductor then generates charges that are directed to the catalysts of the reactor, which produce hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is vented into the atmosphere and the hydrogen is collected and compressed to be delivered.
The device will be more than 200 square centimeters, or a little larger than a typical laptop computer. Hu said that it will be the largest light-capturing device that the community has ever attempted to build. A key part of the project is perfecting a manufacturing technique to make the device easily scalable.
DOE officials said the grants advance the goal of reaching a 100% clean electrical grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The production of green hydrogen is a significant part of this effort, as it’s critical to numerous sectors, including transportation, fuel production, and steel manufacturing.
Clean hydrogen — which is produced with zero or next-to-zero carbon emissions — can leverage all our nation’s clean energy resources, including renewables, nuclear, and fossil resources with carbon capture, DOE officials said. It can also support the expansion of clean electricity by providing a means for long-duration energy storage and offering flexibility and multiple revenue streams to all types of clean power generation — including renewables, today’s nuclear fleet, advanced nuclear, and other innovative technologies.
If successful, Hu’s project could revolutionize the production of green hydrogen. His device could make it possible to produce green hydrogen at a scale and cost that is currently not feasible. This could have a major impact on the fight against climate change, as green hydrogen can be used to decarbonize a wide range of sectors, including transportation, industry, and power generation.