Hydrogen electricity

A University of Nottinghamled project that aims to produce hydrogen by using energy from the sun has won one of E.ON’s annual research awards.


The new process of producing environmentally friendly hydrogen uses three abundant and renewable sources: sunlight, biomass and water.


It combines solar-driven cleavage of water and the degradation of organic compounds, avoiding the use of energy derived from fossil fuels and carbon-dioxide emissions.


The E.ON Research Awards this year were based on the application of nanotechnology in the energy sector.


The awards were given to nine projects by eleven universities and institutes from six countries the UK, Sweden, Greece, US, Australia and Germany.


The leader of the hydrogen-production project is Gianluca Li Puma, an expert in photocatalysis and photoreaction engineering in Nottingham’s Energy Technologies Research Institute.


The €920,000 (£807,159) project is being carried out in collaboration with PatrasUniversity in Greece.


The concept works by collecting energy from the sun through a nano-structured photocatalyst and using it in a photoreactor to release hydrogen from the mixtures of biomass and water.


‘Hydrogen production by conventional water-splitting over a nano-structured photocatalyst has been the topic of numerous investigations since the pioneering work of Fujishima and Honda in 1972,’ said Li Puma.


‘However, after initial enthusiasm it was quickly realised that hydrogen-production rates were too modest to warrant scale-up.


‘In contrast, the solar-hydrogen process, which has been demonstrated at a laboratory scale, yields hydrogen at rates up to 100-times greater than with conventional water-splitting, making the process commercially feasible.’


Li Puma’s research group in photocatalysis and photoreaction engineering will lead the work on scale-up of the solar-hydrogen process.


 


This year’s E.ON award is not the first for Nottingham.


 


In 2008 the university secured two other E.ON Research Awards for energy storage.