Heriot-Watt expert teams up with US and Chinese scientists to split the cost of producing renewable hydrogen fuel

Dr Jin Xuan at work in the hydrogen fuel laboratory
Dr Jin Xuan at work in the Heriot-Watt hydrogen fuel laboratory

Energy experts at a Scottish university are working with colleagues in China and at the USA’s Yale University to split the cost of hydrogen power.

Hydrogen has a potentially game-changing role to play in Britain’s energy future, with demand set to reach up to 860 terawatts (TWh) per year by 2050.

Currently, the UK can only produce around 27 TWh of hydrogen power per year. 

Converting sunlight to hydrogen is one of the most attractive approaches to meet the growing demand for hydrogen because it provides a route to harvest the energy from the sun and is ‘clean’ and carbon-neutral. 

So the high cost and low efficiency of producing hydrogen from our most abundant energy source, sunlight, is being tackled by scientists at Heriot-Watt University. 

Dr Jin Xuan, associate director of Research Centre for Carbon Solutions at Heriot-Watt University, is working with counterparts from Yale, City University of Hong Kong and ​the ​East China University of Science and Technology, on the project.

​ ​They aim to develop a new system to produce hydrogen from solar energy using a technique known as photo-electrochemical water-splitting. The technique uses solar energy to split the hydrogen and oxygen in water, and collect the hydrogen as a renewable energy source. 

The new system could reduce the cost of water splitting by around two thirds and increase the solar to fuel efficiency by up to 20 percent.

Dr Xuan said: “This project offers the chance to make PEC water splitting a viable route for hydrogen production. 

“Our system will use cheap, widely available materials that mean the technology can be easily scaled up to meet the growing demand for hydrogen fuel.”

27 Mar 2018

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