The need for speed

The Paris climate agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 countries in December 2015 and entered into force in November 2016. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels by 2050. To achieve this long-term temperature goal, countries aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to achieve a carbon-neutral world by mid-century.

The main source of greenhouse gases is energy production and consumption which relies heavily on fossil fuels like coal and gasoline. If these emissions have to stop, then renewable energy like solar and wind has to replace fossil fuels at a fast pace. To achieve this, there are indeed massive investments in solar and wind power across the globe.

Green hydrogen

Renewable energy on its own, will not be able to replace fossil fuels completely for two reasons:

  1. The solar and wind power are intermittent and cannot provide stable continuous power 24×7,
  2. Industries like steel and cement still need fuel and cannot run solely on electricity.

This is where hydrogen can play a big role both as energy storage and fuel. Hydrogen is quite abundant on the planet, mostly as hydrocarbon and water. The extraction of hydrogen from hydrocarbons, however, produces CO2 and is not “green” enough. Green hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced by electrolysis. Electrolysis is the process by which water is split into hydrogen and oxygen, where electrical energy is provided by renewable power sources.

Accelerating green innovations

A new European initiative could help green hydrogen reach its vast energy potential. Last year, the renewable energy investment hub EIT InnoEnergy launched the European Green Hydrogen Acceleration Centre (EGHAC). It aims to accelerate technological and infrastructure developments in green hydrogen, to create half a million new jobs in an industry that will be worth €100bn by 2025. Likewise, the China Hydrogen Alliance, a government-supported industry group, predicts that by 2025 the output value of the country’s hydrogen energy industry will reach 1 trillion yuan ($152.6 billion). They also predict that by 2030, China’s demand for hydrogen will reach 35 million tons, accounting for at least 5% of China’s energy system.

While this source of hydrogen gas is almost entirely emission-free, the need to build expensive electrolyzers, and incorporate green hydrogen facilities into existing renewable power infrastructure, has made the process unsustainably expensive and logistically complex. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the cost of producing green hydrogen could reach $3 to $7.50 per kilogram. That’s more than three times the cost of “grey” hydrogen, which is produced using natural gas.

Big changes start on a small scale

Thus, if green hydrogen has to become the fuel of tomorrow, a technological breakthrough in terms of both efficiency as well as cost reduction is essential. The main cost of hydrogen fuel cells comes from expensive catalysts like platinum. To ensure maximum performance using the least amount of catalyst possible, it is important to carefully formulate catalytic inks for fuel cells and other applications. One key to maximizing performance is the characterization, optimization, and control of the catalytic powder during synthesis when received, and during dispersion.

Characterizing catalytic powders with expert scientists

Malvern Panalytical has been investing in analytical technologies that can optimize catalyst usage in fuel cells. Register for our webinar to know more about how our technologies and expertise can help you in your quest for an ideal fuel cell.

During the webinar, we will discuss the non-destructive analysis of powders typically used in proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC). We will look into nanocrystalline Pt-based catalysts on porous carbon support particles in particular.

Key areas covered:

  • X-ray diffraction
  • X-ray fluorescence
  • Laser diffraction

First, specialists Scott Speakman and Paul Carpinone will briefly review the fundamental principles of each technique. Right after, they will discuss their application in characterizing catalytic powders for inks.