Hydrogen-producing rooftop solar panels nearing commercialization

KU Leuven researchers have developed rooftop panels that capture both solar power and water from the air. Like traditional PV modules, hydrogen panels are also connected, but via gas tubes instead of electric cables. The researchers are now preparing to bring the tech to the mass market via a spinoff company. Green hydrogen for anyone, anywhere. – the Solhyd project

“The researchers have been fine-tuning the technology for over a decade. The hand-built prototypes were then cast into an attractive industrial design by Comate Engineering & Design.” -PV MAG

Image: Comate

solar hydrogen panel is a device for artificial photosynthesis that produces photohydrogen directly from sunlight and water vapor utilizing photocatalytic water splitting and thus bypasses the conversion losses of the classical solar–hydrogen energy cycle where solar power is first harvested with solar panels and only then to converted to hydrogen with electrolysis plants.

In the solar hydrogen panel the hydrogen and oxygen evolution reactions are performed in the gas phase in cathode and anode compartments separated by a membraneAnion exchange membranes provide an alkaline environment enabling the use of earth abundant materials as electrocatalysts.[1]

Scientists at KU Leuven‘s Center for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis in LeuvenBelgium have managed to produce a solar hydrogen panel, which is able to directly convert no less than 15 per cent of sunlight into hydrogen gas, which according to them is a world record.[1][2][3] According to IEEE Spectrum in 2019 this is a giant leap from 0.1% efficiency 10 years earlier.[3] On 19 February 2021, exactly 2 years after their original reveal of the panel, KU Leuven launched the Solhyd Project and website.[4]

Solar hydrogen panels seem very promising for the green hydrogen economy as this method of producing hydrogen fuel emits no CO2, unlike steam reforming from natural gas and then utilizing the water-gas shift reaction to produce hydrogen. As of 2015 the majority of H
2 worldwide was produced via steam methane reforming, at prices down to $1 / kg H
2.[5] In 2019 the IEA reported that electrolysis of water, another green way to produce hydrogen, accounts for less than 0.1% of global hydrogen production.[6]

The power-to-gas process of producing methane from hydrogen and CO or CO2 is called methanation and produces substitute natural gas. Due to the challenges in hydrogen storage, other methods of energy storage and delivery may be useful, despite of the conversion losses in power-to-gas. – wiki

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