In the realm of energy innovation, a team of brilliant scientists of CISRO is spearheading the development of a groundbreaking hydrogen generator that has the potential to transform the way we power our farms and other remote locations. Led by a trio of visionaries - John Chiefari, Christian Hornung, and Vicky Au - this pioneering project aims to efficiently generate hydrogen from liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC), ensuring safe transportation and utilization of this clean energy source.
Hydrogen, with its emissions-free properties when produced through water electrolysis using renewable energy, has garnered significant attention as a promising fuel for the future. However, challenges surrounding hydrogen storage and transport have hindered its widespread adoption. To overcome these obstacles, researchers worldwide have sought alternative methods, and the integration of LOHC technology has emerged as a game-changer.
LOHCs are organic compounds capable of absorbing and releasing hydrogen through chemical reactions. This research avenue, explored for over three decades, has gained momentum in recent years as the world endeavors to tackle the net-zero challenge. The process involves producing hydrogen through renewable energy sources and subsequently adding it to the LOHC via hydrogenation. The LOHC, safely stored and transported using conventional fuel tanks and trucks, awaits dehydrogenation to release the hydrogen when needed. It is in this crucial step that the newly developed hydrogen generator comes into play.
The hydrogen generator employs a patented technology known as the Catalytic Static Mixer (CSM). Constructed as a 3D printed scaffold with a catalyst coating, the CSM optimizes the interaction between reagents, enhancing the catalytic reaction's efficiency. Unlike traditional packed bed systems, the CSM provides superior process control and allows for easy replacement and regeneration of exhausted catalysts. Its scalability is also noteworthy, as additional CSMs can be incorporated in parallel flow to meet varying demands.
The project encompasses two phases. First, a pilot-scale hydrogen generator will be constructed, capable of producing 5 kg of hydrogen daily. This compact unit, expected to occupy a space of approximately 1m x 2m, serves as a proof-of-concept. Building upon the knowledge gained from the pilot unit, the team will then proceed to develop a demonstration-scale hydrogen generator. Anticipated to produce 20 kg of hydrogen per day, this larger unit resembles a standard 12m shipping container and is well-suited for hydrogen refueling stations and off-grid power supply requirements.
The applications of this groundbreaking technology are far-reaching. By replacing diesel generators, the hydrogen generator can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide a quieter and more sustainable power solution for off-grid locations such as farms, mine sites, and exploration areas. Additionally, it holds immense potential for hydrogen refueling stations to support the growing fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles.
In the pursuit of a low-carbon economy, this hydrogen generator plays a vital role. While achieving net-zero emissions requires multifaceted approaches, this technology offers a tangible solution for off-grid power needs. By facilitating the deployment of hydrogen infrastructure in various sectors, including hard-to-abate industries like agriculture and mining, it paves the way for everyday Australians to access and benefit from the power of hydrogen.