There are many ways to produce hydrogen, and a clean and eco-friendly method would be electrolysis of water using renewable energy. An Australian research team has now introduced a new option, which is direct air electrolyser (DAE) that does not require any water, and directly absorbs and converts moisture in the atmosphere.
Compared to traditional hydrogen production method using natural gas, electrolysis of water through renewable energy is a green and eco-friendly method, but it may not work so well in dry countries where clean water resources are scarce. According to UN-Water, 2.3 billion of the global population lives in countries of water shortages, while 733 million people live in countries of severe water shortages.
However, this new technology developed by an Australian research team can function even below a humidity of 4%.
The design proposed by the chemical engineers at the University of Melbourne is relatively simple. An electrolytic cell for cathodes and anodes is formed with two panels, where the center of the cathodes and anodes are situated with a melamine sponge or sintered glass foam porous materials, and the medium, as long as it is soaked in the hygroscopic liquid, can self-absorb moisture from the air.
Connect the electrolytic cell with energy and expose it in the air for the cathodes to release hydrogen and anodes to release oxygen. Research personnel believes that this is the first time in obtaining hydrogen through air, and the humidity can be lowered to 4%, making it applicable in any places, since even the Red Center has a humidity of roughly 20%.
Research personnel tested various hygroscopic liquids, porous mediums, thicknesses, and other parameters, before eventually attaining a Faradic efficiency of roughly 95%. The team connected DAE equipment with solar cell panels that are similar to books in sizes, and discovered that the equipment produces 3.7m3 of high-purity hydrogen for each m2 every single day.
The team believes that this particular technology is feasible pertaining to technology and structure, and is relatively low in maintenance cost. The next step is to implement tests under various harsh conditions and temperatures, as well as expand the scale of experiment. Lead researcher Kevin Gang Li commented that they are currently enlarging the scale of DAE from five-layer stacking to 1m2, before going up to 10m2. Although the simulated dry climate inside the laboratory is still not a true desert after all, thus the research team will be heading to Alice Springs and stay there for several weeks to see how the results pan out.
(Cover photo source: University of Melbourne)