Scientists say they have found a new way to generate green hydrogen from water at room temperature in what could be a step toward a clean and renewable energy source.
The production of green hydrogen itself isn’t anything new. This is a form of H2 typically made using water electrolysis powered by renewable energy such as solar or wind energy.
What the researchers at UCSC have found is a way to complete that process at room temperature, without the requirement of the electric input. They have done so through the development of a special aluminum composite that causes a reaction with the water at room temperature. Aluminum is naturally a reactive material that will cause the oxygen to split away from water molecules, allowing the H2 to remain.
Aluminum won’t necessarily do this on its own, however. That’s because at room temperature the metal forms a layer of aluminum oxide, which essentially protects it from reacting with water. What scientists have discovered is that by using an easily produced composite of gallium and aluminum, it is possible to get this material to react with water at room temperature, producing hydrogen.
“We don’t need any energy input, and it bubbles hydrogen like crazy,” said UCSC chemistry professor Scott Oliver in a university press release. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” The fact that this aluminum-gallium mixture produces hydrogen has been known for decades. But what the UCSC team found was that increasing the concentration of gallium in the composite also increased the production of hydrogen.
“Our method uses a small amount of aluminum, which ensures it all dissolves into the majority gallium as discrete nanoparticles,” Oliver said. The downside is that gallium is relatively expensive, although it can be recovered in this process and reused multiple times.
Another downside is that there is still no widespread uptake of hydrogen fuel cells. While it is possible to burn hydrogen directly as a fuel, it can be hazardous, and tanks often must be highly pressurized to contain useful amounts of it.
It remains to be seen if the UCSC process can be scaled up for the commercial production of green hydrogen.
Universal Kraft works in the implementation of green efficient solutions covering the entire power production chain, and intends to be a part of the change. We have been working with green hydrogen production for several years through our partner company Universal H2.
We believe hydrogen could solve some of the energy transition’s biggest hurdles: storage, clean energy distribution, industry usage and heavy transport. Discover more about our solutions here.