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H2PRO Hydrogen, Researchers Developed Environmentally Friendly Hydrogen Production Technology

E-TAC water-splitting technology improves the energy efficiency of the hydrogen production process to an unprecedented peak, 98.7%, and significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions. 

environmentally friendly hydrogen production technology
"Water Split" - Illustration. In the ETAC process, the water split the hydrogen and oxygen into two different stages and at the high efficiency of 98.7%. (Credit Figure: Tam Carib)


The development-based H2Pro company will translate it into a commercial application


Clean, cheap and safe for hydrogen production. This technology significantly enhances the efficiency of hydrogen production - from around 75% by today's methods to unprecedented energy efficiency of 98.7%. 

Avner Rothschild of the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering and Prof. Gideon Grader of the Faculty of Chemical Engineering together with Dr. Chen Dotan and Ph.D. student Abigail Landman.

Conclusions of this research were published in the journal Nature Energy.

Electrolysis was discovered over 200 years ago, and since then has been a cumulative collection of point improvements.

Technion researchers are now introducing a dramatic change that will lead them to cheap, clean and very safe hydrogen.

They say the new process could revolutionize hydrogen production, drawing on clean, renewable energy such as solar or wind energy.

The researchers developed an innovative and unique process, E-TAC water-splitting (Electrochemical - Thermally-Activated Chemical water splitting), based on cyclic operation, in which the chemical composition of the anode alternates (the electrode at which the oxidation process takes place).

In the first step, the cathode produces hydrogen, and the anode changes the chemical composition without creating oxygen.

In the following step, the cathode is passive while the anode produces oxygen. At the end of the second step, the anode reverts to its initial state, and the cycle begins again.

Based on this technology, the researchers established the H2Pro startup company, which deals with translation into a commercial application.

Worldwide, vast quantities of hydrogen are produced every year: about 65 million tons, worth about $ 130 billion, which is energy-efficient, to about nine exajoules(EJ), which is about 2,600 terawatts (TWh).

These quantities are steadily increasing and are expected to triple in the next 20 years; By 2030, hydrogen consumption is expected to be 14 exajoules, and by 2040 to 28.

About 53% of the hydrogen generated today is used in ammonia production for fertilizers and other materials, 20% is used in refineries, 7% is used in methanol production and 20% is used in other uses.

In the future, hydrogen is anticipated to be used in other applications, some of which are in accelerated development phases: hydrogen as a fuel for electric vehicles containing fuel cells (FCEV), hydrogen as a fuel for energy storage from renewable sources (P2G), industrial and domestic hydrogen, and more.

Approximately 99% of the hydrogen currently produced is derived from fossil fuel, and its production involves processes that emit atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) - a gas whose excess presence in the atmosphere accelerates global warming.

Hydrogen is produced mainly by extracting natural gas in the process that releases about 10 tonnes of CO2 on each tonne of hydrogen and is therefore responsible for about 2% of total CO2 emissions into the atmosphere from human activity.

This is the background for the urgent need for cleaner, more environmentally friendly alternatives to hydrogen production.

The main alternative currently available for producing hydrogen cleanly and without CO2 emissions is water electrolysis.

In this process, two electrodes, anode and cathode, are placed in the enriched water at the base or the acid, which increases their electrical conductivity.

In response to the transfer of electrical current between the electrodes, the water molecules (H2O) decompose to their chemical elements and release hydrogen gas (H2) near the cathode and oxygen (O2) near the anode.

The whole process takes place in an atomic cell divided in two - in part one the hydrogen is collected.

Producing hydrogen in clean ways, as opposed to producing natural gas in the SMR process, encounters a host of technological challenges.

One is a significant energy loss; The energy efficiency of electrolysis processes today is only about 75%, which means high consumption of electricity. 

Another difficulty is related to a membrane that divides the electrolysis cell into two.

This membrane, which is required to collect the hydrogen on one side and the oxygen on the other, limits the pressure in the electrolysis chamber to 10 to 30 atmospheres, while in most applications pressure of hundreds of atmospheres is required.

For example, electric vehicles containing fuel cells require compression of the hydrogen at 700 atmospheres.

Today, the pressure is increased through large, costly compressors that complicate operation and increase system installation and maintenance expenses.

The presence of the membrane complicates the construction of the production facility and thus substantially increases its cost. 

Beyond this, the membrane requires periodic maintenance and replacement.


1. The absolute chronological detachment between hydrogen production and oxygen production - these two processes happen at different times.

Implications:

A. Eliminating the need for the membrane that crosses the anode and cathode in the electrolysis chamber. 

This is a significant saving compared to electrolysis, as the membrane is expensive, complicates the production process and requires the use of distilled water and regular maintenance so that it is not frozen.

B. A safe process, which prevents the risk of the oxygen-hydrogen explosion, a meeting that can occur in the normal electrolysis process if the separating membrane is not completely opaque.

The current use of membranes limits the pressure in the hydrogen production process. 

The technology developed at the Technion makes the diaphragm tighten, allowing hydrogen to be compressed at the production stage.

This process also saves some of the enormous costs associated with delayed hydrogen compression.

2. The oxygen generated in a spontaneous chemical reaction between charged anode and the water, without the activation of electric current at that stage.

This response saves the need for electricity at the oxygen generation stage and increases the process efficiency using conventional methods for unprecedented energy efficiency: 98.7%.

3. E-TAC technology is expected to reduce not only operating costs but also equipment costs.

H2Pro estimates that the cost of producing hydrogen in the E-TAC process will be about half the cost of equipment based on existing technologies.

The initial estimates indicate the possibility of producing industrial-scale hydrogen at competitive production costs compared to producing natural gas in the SMR process, as stated without atmospheric CO2 emissions.

Technology developers, Prof. Gideon Grader, Prof. Avner Rothschild, and Dr. Chen Dotan, co-founders of Viber and founded H2Pro, which deals with the commercialization of the new technology.

The Technion Institution raised initial capital led by Hyundai, which employs more than 20 people, most of them Technion graduates.

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