Materials

Organic matter to hydrogen process granted £220k government funding

The UK Government has provided the University of Aberdeen’s School of Engineering with £220,000 for the development of an organic matter to hydrogen process.

food wasteFour main reaction stages will be adopted in the process – dark fermentation, anaerobic digestion, plasma reforming and steam gasification. Through ‘scaling up and integrating’ these four stages, the hydrogen yield from organic waste will be maximised.

The funding comes as part of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP). This financial support will facilitate research that could see the organic matter in ‘food waste, manure, wastewaters and other biodegradable wastes converted to hydrogen and used to power homes and businesses’.

Professor Davide Dionisi from the School of Engineering will lead the project, alongside several leading academics, including those from the University’s Department of Chemistry.   The team will also consist of members from Cranfield University in England and the University of Verona in Italy, as partners of the project.

Similar waste-to-hydrogen projects have been introduced in the UK in a bid to source renewable energy through a low carbon and low-cost process.

In July, academics from the Universities of Oxford and Cardiff announced plans to work alongside CarbonMeta Technologies with the objective of converting plastic waste into ‘clean hydrogen fuel and high-value carbon nanomaterials’. This process involves the use of ‘microwave catalysis’ technology to yield ‘high value products for industry’ – graphite, hydrogen, graphene, and carbon nanotubes.

Earlier in the year, West Dunbartonshire council approved plans for a £20 million facility, designed to turn non-recyclable plastic waste into electricity and hydrogen – the second of its kind in the UK. Operated by Peel NRE, the facility will use Powerhouse Energy Plc’s (AIM:PHE) technology.

Speaking on the funded research, Professor Dionisi, a renowned specialist in biomass research, commented: “Hydrogen is a key energy vector in the energy transition, and generating hydrogen from organic waste would achieve the combined benefits of reducing environmental pollution and of generating green sustainable energy.

“So far there is no commercial process that produces hydrogen from organic waste, but our proposed process combines waste treatment with energy generation and can be entirely powered from renewable electricity, thereby providing a more sustainable alternative to other processes for hydrogen production from non-renewable and renewable resources.

“I am delighted that our research has been recognised by the UK Government as being among the most promising in the UK in terms of delivering a sustainable hydrogen-producing process at a commercial scale.

“The project may move the proposed process closer to commercialisation, with the ultimate impact of reducing the energy consumption, land and water requirements of green hydrogen production in the UK and globally.”

Greg Hands, UK Government Energy Minister, added: “Accelerating home-grown renewables like biomass is a key part of ending our dependency on expensive and volatile fossil fuels. This £37 million of government investment will support innovation across the UK, boosting jobs whilst ensuring greater energy security for years to come.”