KU Leuven researchers in Belgium have created a hydrogen panel that directly converts water vapor from the air into hydrogen gas, with the help of sunlight. They claim it produces 250 liters of hydrogen per day, at an efficiency of 15%. They are developing it under the Solhyd project, which is now in a transition phase from research to spinoff.
In a nutshell, hydrogen panels are modules that use solar energy to split water molecules and produce hydrogen gas. This means only the most arid places on Earth are too dry for hydrogen panels to work efficiently. They are akin to classical solar modules, but instead of an electric cable, they are connected via gas tubes.
Specifically, electricity is produced by the top layer solar panel, with a system of tubes underneath, where the hydrogen is produced from water molecules extracted directly from the air using a membrane.
“Solhyd hydrogen panels are compatible with most commercial modern PV modules, which are directly plugged into our system. This way, we can benefit from the ongoing developments and cost reductions in the PV industry,” KU Leuven researcher Jan Rongé told pv magazine. “To further enhance this synergy, Solhyd hydrogen panels are compatible with common PV mounting structures.”
The researchers described the hydrogen panel as small-scale, modular, and ideal for decentralized production. They estimated that 20 of the panels could supply electricity and heat for a well-insulated house with a heat pump all winter long. When installed alongside a solar thermal collector and traditional solar panels, hydrogen panels could help heat homes and provide electricity throughout the year.
“The hydrogen panels themselves do not store hydrogen and work at very low pressure. This has several safety and cost benefits. The hydrogen is collected centrally from the hydrogen panel plant, and then compressed, if needed,” Rongé said. “Hydrogen can be stored indefinitely in compressed form. Of course, certain applications do not require compression, or will use other means of storage.”
Hydrogen produced by Solhyd panels can be used in a wide range of applications, including mobility.
“In the shorter term, we are mostly targeting mid-sized applications, such as backup power, logistics, heavy transport, but also providing energy in the Global South,” said Rongé. “Later, you could think of anything from large scale ammonia production down to small-scale off-grid systems.”
The researchers said they foresee a similar system-price cost curve like the one seen in PV, and noted that they use non-precious materials to keep the hydrogen panels affordable. They have tested several prototypes since the project launch in 2011 and are ready to launch industrial production of hydrogen panels.
In September, the Solhyd project moved from the university labs to a new 350 square-meter production space close to the Belgian town of Leuven, where pilot production lines were established with the help of Flemish government funding. Initially, the team will produce a few dozen hydrogen panels for small-scale pilot projects. But by 2026, the team expects to scale up production to 5,000 panels a year.
“At this moment we expect that the product will be commercially available from 2026 onwards,” Rongé said. “When we achieve mass production, the price will be close to that of PV modules today.”
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Now THIS is a promising development. If we can get these on homes, you can produce the hydrogen to power your hydrogen hybrid Prius. No range issues with a hybrid vs limitations with full electric.
You could also heat your house but there are probably better ways to do that in most places (heat pumps with whatever is the most economical back up, etc.).
Hydrogen is extremely flamable. It needs to be compressed very high to 10,000 psi to be stored and used to run a motor. I have solarcelectric pNels on my roof butvwould never put h2 panels on my home.
Agree… control spontaneous flash is where research is needed… for clean burning without explosion.
Hydrogen energy storage and recovery is just a type of battery that is really bad. It has low efficiency and it requires many complex components that are expensive. If this actually worked in a cost effective way they would be having them mass produced this year in Asia. There is zero new technology here. This reeks of fantasy project. It’s a solar powered dehumidifier. Solar panels exist. Dehumidifiers exist. It then uses more solar power to crack the tiny amount of water it gets into hydrogen and then it uses more solar power to compress that hydrogen and pump it to a tank where it will slowly leak out. Eventually you will need a fuel cell to efficiently recover the energy. Each of those processes are ineffective and inefficient or expensive. All of that exists today. So why start with such a low production goal? Because it will produce a tiny amount of hydrogen for each square meter of panel and the costs will be very high. Let’s see the demonstration video on youTube tomorrow. Throw one of these panels in front of a sun lamp and measure what comes out. It’s going to be perfect for that cool humid climate where it also happens to be sunny at the same time.
250 liters of hydrogen produced by one panel with a full day of sunlight, at room temp and atmospheric pressure is 0.0209 kg of hydrogen. The Toyota Mirai has a 5 kg capacity high pressure hydrogen fuel tank. One of these panels producing 250 liters of hydrogen, which is 0.0209 kg would require 5 kg / 0.0209 kg/day = 239 days to produce 5 kg of atmospheric pressure hydrogen. You of course would then need much more energy to compress that to 10,000 PSI to get it into that tank. A single 350 Watt PV panel will charge a Tesla fully in 40 days. It looks like the Belgian government got scammed.
Thanks, @RHH, for working the numbers. ‘nuf said.
If we start using hydrogen from air all over the world, doesn’t it effect the water cycle?
Sure, it will lower rising sea levels..
No when you use the hydrogen it is recombined with oxygen and creates water again. In this process is when you get the release of an electron creating an electric potential. See when you add electricity you separate the hydrogen and oxygen the you release that electricity when you recombine it. You are using the processes as a battery.
Interested for Tanzania
Dumb idea. Don’t put the gas making components that will require maintenance on inaccessible roof tops.
Efficiency is terrible and hence even at comparable cost to PVs, this makes it payback so long as to be worthless
This will affect the water cycle and the absorption of impurities by water molecules which in turn will accelerate air pollution. As a result global warming will accelerate as well. Using water itself to harvest hydrogen seems a better option.
Sunlight is always available, even if the system has a low efficiency it will still produce hydrogen that can be stored. The stored hydrogen can then be used for power with fuel cells to produce electricity, along with burning for heat. If enough of these solar panels are used the volume of gas produced would be useable and only produce water vapor during combustion, or use in a fuel cell. So the efficiency is not an issue. Right now my roof has zero efficiency since I do not have any solar panels, if I installed panels deemed inefficient at least something would be produced from all of this free solar energy.
Using batteries for power storage works for now but can be very dangerous as seen in vehicles that have caught fire, and batteries do have a rather short life span. Hydrogen will be the next big thing for non-fossil energy storage.
INteresting to see the stubbornness in most reactions. These panels have been develeoped years ago and their then prototype showed to be working like a charm, they have perfected their product over time. I see the same arguments as when we we started to let cars drive on gas. Dangerous, highglu flamable and so on and so. Just because we have wasted hundreds of billios on subsidies to push windmills down the throat of people, and still because of these subsidies do not have a prodcut that earns itself back in a small ammount of time, doesnt mean the development on Hydrogen has stood stil. Japans has major breakthoughs ans is expected to go full hydrogen. Of course their breakthrough has to do with mass-production of Hydrogen. Elon Musk changed his opinion from Fool cells tot fuel cells again and has already said that the first Hydrogen Tesla will be presented in 2024. Their are many ways of producing Hydrogen, just because it used to be extremely expencive, doesnt mean it stays that way. Solarpanels which we can’t even recycle and will prove to be a nightmare in terms of chemical waste, broken panels will release superstrong greenhouse gasses into the atmosfhere and hevay metals which will find its way into the ground into our drinking water suplies. WIndmills do not get recycled, they get sold to countries where they dont care about the enviorment, where they will work some more years before ending in the ground. Oh we are so considered when we talk about the enviorment, not to mention the mining the resources of those green solutions.
Hydrogen will be the way to go, the tanks it is stored in are of higher quality of those for simple natural gas. Even when it escapes unlike natural gas it goes straight up into the atmosfhere, simply because it is much lighter then the air surrounding it. Where Natural gas is heavier and hangs around. We dont even have enough resourches to produce batteries to make a small country like the Nethelands to only drive e-cars. Hydrogen specially when you can produce it off-grid is a excellent way to store energy, no highly polutiong windmills or solar panels, but a truly clean form of energy. As you are producing it the entire day through, you will have enough to fill your tank at home for the times it produces slightly less. Cars can do what we want in de first place, and filling your car up wont take an hour or more. The same reason why 100 years ago we wanted fossile, so we wouldn have to wait hours everytime the batteries were empty.
Thank god technological advances continue where close minded people stop thinking. Japan is already proving we can produce Hydrogen chealy, and with these panels for your home you have real green solutions. It may give problems in air circulation, but so do windmills, they have proven to heat up the surroundings where they stand, they are desastrous for wildlife even when we build them on water, which also applies to solar panels, they all capture warmth, and where we place them in nature wildlife and nature are seriously affected.
A fantastic technology whose time has come. Imagine a home in Europe with green hydrogen producing solar panels,the water taken from air and direct electrolysis in thin tubes shall ultimately increase efficiency of solar panels as in high temperature zones where there is always a very good radiation in the after when temperature rises above 42 degrees the efficiency of solar panels starts declining this system will ultimately help .Now imagine a home using organic waste and human extracts plus garden waste etc to produce methane and the residual manure wud make this home self sufficient as far as energy needs are concerned. Add to this the reduction in spending on local self administration involved in garbage collection and reduction on resources in suvage system etc wud be a great help in harmonizing community spending. It is high time that we humans realize the centralized systems for for day to day living is a big burden on resources and wud never work effectively and efficiently. If the things are sorted out at the source and utilized then and there our requirements shall reduce and there shall be less and less burden on Mother Earth.
Now if the developers are interested in starting a few such prototypes in India under a collaboration we shall be interested in providing resources for such projects provided they come up a proper DPR( detailed project report) and a demonstration of the green hydrogen panels in a convincing manner.
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