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Australia’s UOW Co-Develops Breakthrough Green Tech

Image Credits: UOW, Press Release

In a clean energy breakthrough, researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) and ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) have developed new electrolyser technology that brings cost-competitive renewable, or green, hydrogen closer to reality. The research findings are published on 16 March 2022 in Nature Communications and report on the research team’s “capillary-fed electrolysis cell” and its production of green hydrogen from water at 98% cell energy efficiency.

This productivity is superior to other existing electrolyser technologies, and is well above the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) 2050 target, enabling an affordable hydrogen production cost that can match the production costs of fossil fuels. Professor Gerry Swiegers from ACES and UOW’s Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) led the research team, with critical input from other UOW researchers including ACES Director Distinguished Professor Gordon Wallace.

A UOW spin-out company was formed last year to commercialise the breakthrough hydrogen electrolyser technology. the company is based at UOW’s Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) – the headquarters for both IPRI and ACES – and is commercialising the technology with backing from IP Group and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

The CTO of the tech firm noted that electrolysers have been around for 200 years, however, the large amounts of renewable electricity required to produce green hydrogen and the overall cost of electrolysers today has prevented large-scale uptake of green hydrogen.

The company’s overall electrolyser system has been designed for ease of manufacturing, scaling and installation, delivering 95% overall system efficiency, equivalent to 41.5 kWh/kg, compared to 75% or less for existing electrolyser technologies. For hydrogen producers, this will significantly reduce both the capital and operational costs to produce green hydrogen.

Professor Wallace described his excitement on the discoveries and how it is a testament to work built upon over a long time. He noted that exciting new technological opportunities are based on many years of thorough fundamental scientific explorations. The company’s development is no exception and we are proud to be associated with this, he added.

The Head of Physical Sciences at IP Group Australia and the CEO of the aforementioned tech company explained that these new findings provide a pathway to commercialise the world’s most efficient electrolyser. He noted that the global momentum towards net-zero is creating a massive opportunity for green hydrogen and electrolysers. Economics will ultimately determine which technologies win, and with world-beating efficiency, the firm is well placed to lead in this major new global market.

The company’s electrolyser will deliver the world’s lowest hydrogen cost, save hydrogen producers billions of dollars in electricity costs, and enable green hydrogen to outcompete fossil fuel-derived hydrogen. The technology will enable hydrogen production of below US$1.50/kg per kilogram by the mid-2020s, meeting Australian and global cost targets much earlier than generally expected. This is critical to making green hydrogen commercially viable and decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors.

Some of Australia’s brightest minds are working together to position Australia as a leading manufacturer and exporter of electrolysers, with plans underway to build a pilot electrolyser manufacturing plant and employ dozens of new highly skilled specialists in 2022.

Green hydrogen is forecast to be a trillion-dollar industry with the backbone of this industry being the electrolyser. Given the urgency to reach net zero, we are gearing up to scale up as quickly as possible.

ABOUT THE ARC CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE FOR ELECTROMATERIALS SCIENCE

Based at the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus, ACES is a multidisciplinary research group with a focus on developing functional devices for applications including batteries, solar cells and systems that interact with living tissue.

ABOUT THE RESEARCH

‘A high-performance capillary-fed electrolysis cell promises more cost-competitive renewable hydrogen’ by Aaron Hodges, Anh Linh Hoang, George Tsekouras, Klaudia Wagner, Chong-Yong Lee, Gerhard F. Swiegers and Gordon G. Wallace is published in Nature Communications.

The research was funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence Scheme and the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) Materials Node.

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