There are couple of breakthroughs this week in the direct solar to hydrogen production arena that are worth mentioning. One method involves a 100 Kw pilot plant in Germany and the other method also has German roots and involves a new carbon nitride catalyst for splitting water.
Researchers at the German Aerospace Center have successfully scaled up a 10 Kw solar-hydrogen pilot plant into a 100 kilowatt plant. The solar thermal reactor splits water using heat without needing to create electricity first.
This pilot plant is part of the European HYDROSOL II project. In the months to come the direct solar to hydrogen pilot plant will be stepped up to find which materials work optimally as solar absorbers. Since this 100 Kw plant was created in modular style it can be easily scaled up to a megawatt station if need be.
The other breakthrough I had previously mentioned involves finding a new non-platinum or rare metal catalyst to use when splitting hydrogen from water. Chemist Xinchen Wang, of the Max-Planck Institute in Germany and Fouzhou University in China has discovered that an inexpensive carbon nitride catalyst works efficiency in creating hydrogen.
This carbon nitride material has been polymerized to a form similar to graphite. The reaction is assisted by both visible and ultraviolet light giving it a wider range than many other catalysts.
Now, if we could just get these two sets of German researchers together and combine forces, we could all see another ray of hope when it comes to the commercialization of direct solar to hydrogen production in the very near future.