As alternative fuel sources go, hydrogen has a lot fo promise. Unfortunately, in the world we currently inhabit in February, 2023, the majority of hydrogen is sourced from fossil fuels. So-called “green hydrogen” is a technical possibility, but the cost to produce it is prohibitively expensive. As long as that remains the case, few companies will go down that road. There has to be a better way, doesn’t there?
Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Australia say that they’ve found such a solution. More than that, they say that they’ve found a way to make sustainable hydrogen from sea water—which, if their research proves correct and actionable, could be a massive and scalable game-changer.
Plenty of industries, such as aviation, manufacturing, and shipping, have numerous practical hurdles to overcome in terms of decarbonization. Current hydrogen manufacturing is largely not a carbon-neutral process, as it’s produced from fossil fuels and still generates approximately 830 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to RMIT.
A team of RMIT researchers, led by Dr. Nasir Mahmood, just published their research in a new study in the Wiley scientific journal Nano Micro Small on February 8, 2023. They have simultaneously filed a provisional patent application for their method, which involves a different catalyst than has previously been used before with seawater.
To create hydrogen from seawater with current practices, the catalysts used to electrolyze the water end up creating chlorine as a byproduct—and scaling hydrogen production up would end up producing untenable amounts of that chlorine, which could damage the environment in different ways. Solving a problem by creating a new problem isn’t any kind of solution, so Dr. Mahmood’s team says that they’ve found a way to avoid it entirely while still achieving the desired result of producing hydrogen from seawater.
“We know hydrogen has immense potential as a clean energy source, particularly for the many industries that can’t easily switch over to be powered by renewables. But to be truly sustainable, the hydrogen we use must be 100% carbon-free across the entire production life cycle and must not cut into the world’s precious freshwater reserves,” Dr. Mahmood said in a statement.
“Our method to produce hydrogen straight from seawater is simple, scalable and far more cost-effective than any green hydrogen approach currently in the market. With further development, we hope this could advance the establishment of a thriving green hydrogen industry in Australia,” he concluded.
If you’re interested in reading the paper in its entirety, you’ll find it linked in our Sources.