KU Leuven scientists take major step towards industrial production of hydrogen panels, with the help of Comate
KU Leuven scientists have taken an important step toward the industrial production of panels that can extract green hydrogen gas from the air. They previously made several prototypes and are now ready for the next step: industrial production. By 2030, they hope to install the panels on the roofs of homes.
Hydrogen is the smallest and lightest of all chemical elements and has a special property: it carries energy. Hydrogen gas is an energy carrier that can store and produce both electricity and heat.
"Hydrogen gas is becoming important as an energy solution of the future," believes researcher Jan Rongé (KU Leuven). "It can be used for a lot of applications. We think primarily of heavy transport, industry and emergency power generators. With cogeneration, it can also be used to generate electricity and heat."
Hydrogen gas is a gas that does not release greenhouse gases or toxins when you use it. The condition, however, is that you make hydrogen with clean energy. And that is exactly what bioengineers Jan Rongé and Tom Bosserez of KU Leuven are doing. Ever since 2011, they have been working on a hydrogen panel that converts moisture in the air directly into hydrogen.
The panel captures two things: air and light. Air contains water vapor, and the hydrogen panel uses the sun's energy (light) to split those water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.
The hydrogen is stored under pressure (with a compressor) or transported through pipelines and can then be used in a variety of applications. The oxygen gas is simply released back into the air, with no environmental impact.
According to Rongé and Bosserez, hydrogen is the energy solution of the future. Within KU Leuven, under the heading "The Solhyd Project," they were given the opportunity to test out their ideas. They already developed several prototypes of their hydrogen panel, and thanks to support from the Leuven company Comate, they were even able to translate those prototypes into a marketable product.
"We are very pleased that we can turn a research result like this into a marketable product" says Sander Van den dries, director of Comate. "But you can only really speak of an innovation when it is produced, sold and used." To make that possible, the research project Solhyd will molt into a spin-off company from KU Leuven.
"That way we can eventually make the panels in large volumes and distribute them around the world," says Jan Rongé. He is already looking to the future with hope: "We expect that from 2030 it will be possible to install hydrogen panels on roofs of homes."
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