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GNS Science-led research programme aims at emissions-free energy supply - 30/09/2020

New Zealand is showing the way in a bid to make ‘green’ hydrogen a viable fuel to replace fossil fuels for a range of applications thanks to research being led by GNS Science.

Currently 95 percent of hydrogen produced globally is ‘brown hydrogen’, produced from coal and natural gas, and it is responsible for CO2 emissions. Green hydrogen, produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis from renewable energy sources, is carbon-neutral but expensive.

Scientists involved in the green hydrogen project at GNS Science from left Jérôme Leveneur, John Kennedy, Vedran Jovic, and Prasanth Gupta. Photo: Margaret Low, GNS Science

Scientists involved in the green hydrogen project at GNS Science from left Jérôme Leveneur, John Kennedy, Vedran Jovic, and Prasanth Gupta. Photo: Margaret Low, GNS Science

The goal of the GNS Science-led project is to make green hydrogen affordable and more widely adopted as a viable energy carrier and fuel. The key to doing this is in increasing the efficiency of the catalytic process used in splitting water into its component molecules of oxygen and hydrogen.

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As well as helping to significantly lower the cost of hydrogen production, this project is also aiming to encourage the development of new domestic and export markets for hydrogen

Dr John Kennedy

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“We see green hydrogen playing an important role in New Zealand’s low-carbon future. Currently electrolysis used in green hydrogen production relies on noble metals such as platinum which are rare, expensive, and suffer from inefficiencies,” said leader of the GNS Science project John Kennedy.   

“This drives up the cost of green hydrogen relative to fossil fuels. This project will work at the molecular level to design and build novel catalyst materials with surface properties that render them highly efficient as catalysts for producing hydrogen,” Dr Kennedy said.

Hydrogen is a highly flexible energy carrier that can be used in transport, electricity generation, and to power a range of industrial processes. In New Zealand it is seen as an attractive option as an energy storage medium for dry years, a fuel for heavy transport, and replacing fossil fuels for heating and industrial uses, including back-up generators.  

“As well as helping to significantly lower the cost of hydrogen production, this project is also aiming to encourage the development of new domestic and export markets for hydrogen,” Dr Kennedy said.

It will also work to identify and tackle the social barriers that could hinder the public acceptance of green hydrogen as a fuel.

Dr Kennedy added that the recent decision by the Government to fund the research programme through MBIE’s Endeavour Fund recognised the leading role GNS Science plays in developing new, low-emission energy options to help New Zealand meet its net carbon zero target by 2050.

Understanding and tuning the surface properties of materials is a strength of the Materials Science Team at GNS Science. Collaborating with them in the project are national partners the University of Canterbury, University of Otago, New Zealand Product Accelerator based at The University of Auckland. International partners include Boston University, the University of Wurzburg in Germany, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and CSIRO and the University of Newcastle in Australia.

The project is also supported by many stakeholders in the New Zealand hydrogen sector.

Link: NZ scientists in $8m bid to make ‘green’ hydrogen a reality – The NZ Herald, 29 September 2020  
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12368942