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Producing Green Hydrogen Using Sustainable Catalysts

Swansea and Grenoble experts have teamed up to create a realistic method for producing green hydrogen using sustainable catalysts.

Producing Green Hydrogen Using Sustainable Catalysts

Image Credit: Swansea University.

The experts now anticipate that their study will be a significant step in making green hydrogen production more simple, cheap, and scalable.

In our work, we use natural enzymes—hydrogenases—to generate green hydrogen using sunlight. Unlike synthetic catalysts which are based on precious metals like platinum, hydrogenases contain only earth-abundant elements such as iron and nickel. However, these enzymes are very sensitive and quickly deactivate when exposed to air, making their practical use near impossible.

Dr. Moritz Kuehnel, Senior Lecturer, Chemistry Department, Swansea University

The group has now developed engineered solvents that allow hydrogenases to act in air. Simply soaking them in these solvents instead of water makes them more active and stable, allowing them to be utilized to create hydrogen in the air.

We integrated synthetic nanoparticles with natural enzymes into so-called hybrid materials, which combine the best of both worlds to achieve new, superior functionality. TiO2 nanoparticles are excellent at using sunlight to generate charges and hydrogenases are extremely efficient in using these charges to generate green hydrogen. Combining the two, therefore, allows for the efficient generation of green hydrogen from sunlight, something none of the separate components are capable of.

Dr Christine Cavazza, Senior Scientist, CEA Grenoble

Swansea University’s expertise in photocatalysis, solvent design, and its emphasis on providing practical solutions to complex problems were coupled with knowledge of retrieving natural enzymes and using them for renewable energy conversion at the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA).

Swansea’s strategic connection with UGA resulted in the collaboration. The findings were published in the international journal Angewandte Chemie.

This work is an inspiring example of how combining the expertise of multiple partners in an international collaboration can lead to ground-breaking research advances.

Dr. Alan Le Goff, Senior Scientist, CNRS Grenoble

Green hydrogen is required as a fuel for the decarbonization of transportation, particularly long-haul aviation, HGV, the marine sector where electrification is not feasible, as well as the chemical industry, particularly fertilizer manufacture, and the energy sector.

However, the costs of manufacturing green hydrogen currently prevent its widespread usage, which is why this discovery is so important for the future.

Utilizing sustainable catalysts like hydrogenases instead of costly platinum can reduce the cost of electrolyzers and fuel cells, making green hydrogen more affordable to create and utilize. It also reduces reliance on imports, which can be disrupted by outside forces.

Journal Reference:

Allan, M. G., et al. (2023). Augmenting the Performance of Hydrogenase for Aerobic Photocatalytic Hydrogen Evolution via Solvent Tuning. Angewandte Chemie International Edition.


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