Two major GNS Science research projects help secure New Zealand’s energy future

New Zealand’s goal to be carbon-zero by 2050 is a step closer today, thanks to two major projects launched and led by GNS Science.

Isabelle Chambefort

Dr Isabelle Chambefort

The Crown Research Institute is working with partners from around the world to develop cutting-edge technological solutions to our energy needs – both now and in the future.

A team led by Dr Isabelle Chambefort at GNS Science is ramping up its work in “next generation” geothermal energy, looking at how to tap deep, very high temperature resources.

“Our science will deliver new options to significantly reduce emissions – as well as providing vital regional perspective and opportunities for iwi and regional development,” GNS Science chief executive Ian Simpson says.

“Isabelle’s team will work on innovation to utilise deep superheated geothermal fluids which will help boost the availability of low emissions energy and the export of New Zealand’s low-carbon expertise – and meet the Carbon Zero 2050 goal.”

These deep energy sources could provide new options for the energy needs of emerging industries like the hydrogen economy.

Prasanth Gupta

Prasanth Gupta

GNS Science’s Prasanth Gupta and John Kennedy are leading research which will greatly increase the commercial viability of hydrogen as an energy carrier, by moving away from precious metals as catalysts by unlocking more plentiful and cost-effective alternatives.

As well as reducing barriers to adoption, the research will create new manufacturing techniques and export opportunities for New Zealand.

Both projects have received funding through the Endeavour Fund of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

“These two projects show that GNS’s excellent science will play a key role to meeting our future energy needs and will deliver enormous benefits for New Zealand,” Mr Simpson says.

“We’re excited to be working with numerous local and international collaborators to deliver science that’s useful, useable and used.

“We’re really grateful to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for backing GNS Science to launch these two programmes, which we believe will be of huge benefit to New Zealand.”



Research Programme
Geothermal: The next generation

Led by Isabelle Chambefort, GNS Science. Collaborators include University of Auckland, VUW, Upflow Ltd, ETH Zurich, University of New South Wales, GFZ Postdam, University of Hong Kong, University of Nevada Reno, University of Iceland, Geothermal Technologies office program manager DoE, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Advanced Institute for Science and Technology Tsukuba Japan, Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) Norway.

Geothermal is instrumental in achieving the goal of reducing carbon emissions but the critical challenge is to go beyond conventional geothermal to tap deeper, supercritical resources. We will characterise NZ’s unique geothermal conditions, while drawing on the learnings of supercritical energy exploration worldwide (Japan, Iceland) to identify viable ‘deep-heat’ systems. Our research will boost regional development, supporting Māori-led geothermal opportunities. Integrating emissions capture, reinjection and/or sequestration simulations in the programme will achieve a step change in emissions reduction. Emissions capture innovation will also enable new high-value industrial applications, boosting export of low-carbon know-how, and underpinning new industries with high-energy needs (e.g. hydrogen economy).

Smart Ideas: Nano-catalytic surfaces for efficient, stable fuel cells and eco-friendly hydrogen production

Led by Prasanth Gupta, John Kennedy, Vedran Jovic. Collaborators include University of Auckland, The University of Newcastle, Advanced Light Source (California), Novel Materials Laboratory of Boston University, Helmholtz Centre Dresden Rossendorf, and Centre for Ion Beam Applications National University of Singapore.

This project aims to develop novel manufacturing methods for highly efficient catalysts based on nonprecious elements for eco-friendly production of hydrogen and reliable operation of fuel cells. Currently the choice of catalysts is limited to platinum and other precious metals, which restrict the commercial viability of hydrogen as an energy carrier. Our project leverages past research efforts, by identifying and exploring transition metal carbides as a promising replacement catalyst for platinum. This research will support NZ’s goal to be carbon zero by 2050 by reducing barriers in adoption of hydrogen as a fuel. Equally relevant, the discovery of new manufacturing techniques towards transition metal carbide catalysts and related devices (water splitting cells, fuel cells) will support the development of hydrogen production infrastructure and a knowledge-intensive fuel cell industry in NZ.