Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK have announced plans to use screen-printed nanotechnology to try and create a new green power source from hydrogen.
It is hoped that the new energy form will provide remote communities with an affordable alternative to expensive diesel and petrol imports.
Led by professor in electrochemical and nanotechnology Craig Banks, the team will screen print electrodes using graphene-like nanotechnology embedded in a fluid carbon-based printer ink. The electrodes can be printed in a variety of shapes, as well as on a mass production scale.
These electrodes will then be used in electrolysers, which separate water into its two components oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen will then be taken for storage or transportation, and ultimately fed into fuel cells to create electricity whenever needed.
The fuel cells and electrolysers will then be ‘harsh water tested’ on Scotland’s Orkney Islands, in collaboration with the European Marine Energy Centre.
According to the university, the hydrogen energy source is more efficient than other renewable forms of energy.
Research associate Dr Samuel Rowley-Neale said: “The electricity generated by wind, wave, tidal and solar power is often ill correlated to consumer demand and typically has to be fed into the National Grid where it is used instantly or must be expensively captured somehow, such as in a battery – which has issues with degradation – or else the turbines have to be shut off to ensure the generated electricity does not overload the electricity grid.
“In contrast, an electrolyser creates hydrogen that can be easily stored and physically transported as a gas with no deterioration, and then later fed into a fuel cell for conversion to power when needed.”
The team behind the technology hope that, if successful, the hydrogen energy source will prove beneficial to remote communities that currently rely on imported fossil fuel-based power sources, which are not only carbon-heavy but also expensive.
Dr Rowley-Neale added: “This is the perfect opportunity to explore whether we can produce a less polluting alternative to current fossil fuel-based energy generation techniques.
“This will put Manchester Metropolitan at the forefront of renewable energy research as it helps to tackle climate change by enabling off-grid clean and cost effective hydrogen production.”
The university had already conducted proof-of-concept studies into finding a cheaper alternative to the expensive materials, such as platinum and iridium, which are used in traditional methods of manufacturing electrodes.
It was awarded a £100,000 grant from Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to pursue the research.
Electrode development will take place at Manchester Metropolitan University over the next six months, followed by installation of the electrolyser stack in Scotland and connection to a renewable energy system. The technology will then be tested over a six-month period.