Researchers make hydrogen production breakthrough

27th February 2024
Paige West

At Robert Gordon University (RGU), a team of researchers, in collaboration with the University of Surrey, has developed a tubular cell designed to withstand high temperatures, marking a significant step towards more cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy solutions.

This innovation, spearheaded by RGU's School of Engineering, focuses on improving hydrogen production through solid oxide steam electrolysis (SOSE), utilising waste steam from nuclear power plants.

The SOSE systems, functioning within a temperature range of 600 to 900°C, incorporate cathode, electrolyte, and anode layers produced through thermal spray and dip coating methods. The project saw enhancements in the cell's design, materials, and configuration, all contributing to the system's overall performance.

The research findings indicate that this new tubular electrolyser cell outperforms existing models in hydrogen production rate. However, further advancements in manufacturing techniques are required to mitigate cracking at high temperatures, alongside efforts towards upscaling and life cycle assessment (LCA) to bring this innovation to market.

Professor Nadimul Faisal, METASIS lead investigator from the School of Engineering, highlighted the broader implications of their work: “Developing electrolyser cells with enhanced hydrogen production and their scalable manufacturing can play an important role in enabling not only eco-friendly development but also cost-effective, reliable, and sustainable opportunities. This project has the potential to advance technology to produce green hydrogen and thus we will exploit the outcomes and commercialise the product.”

Professor Mamdud Hossain, also from RGU’s School of Engineering, reflected on the project's foundation: “This EPSRC funded project gave us an opportunity for building something from scratch through fundamental research. We have shown our technology works and provide a better performance compared to existing design. We are seeking further partners to take the technology near to market.”

Dr Anil Prathuru, Lecturer at the School of Engineering, emphasised the role of solid oxide electrolyser technology in achieving the UK's energy objectives: “Solid oxide electrolyser technology is set to play a key role in UK’s energy goals. Scalable manufacturing is a potential issue. This project gave us the opportunity to try some unique ideas towards enhancing the operational efficiency and demonstrate a highly scalable method of electrolyser manufacture.”

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (METASIS, EP/W033178/1), the project benefited from the expertise of co-investigators Prof Qiong Cai and Dr Bahman Horri from the University of Surrey, with Dr Victoria Kurushina (PDRF), Dr Ajith Kumar Soman (PDRF), and Vinooth Rajendran (RA) playing pivotal roles in its execution.

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