Hydrogen has long taken positions to become one of the fuels of the future. To give it a boost, a scientific team has just developed the world’s most efficient system to date for the production of this element. Baptized as Hybrid SOEC, the innovation multiplies by four the efficiency compared to other alternatives by finding an electrolyte that can transport oxygen ions and protons at the same time.
Put like that, it may not seem like a big deal. Yet it is. And it is that, the existing solid oxide electrolytic cells (SOEC), transferred hydrogen ions or oxygen ions, but not both. Thus, when electrolytes carry oxygen ions, the electrolysis of the water that occurs at the anode enables the generation of hydrogen. On the other hand, if what is transported are hydrogen ions, the electrosis takes place at the cathode and what is produced is oxygen. In this case, the hydrogen would pass to the anode through the electrolyte.
The question posed by scientists from South Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), the Energy Research Institute (KIER), and Sookmyung University who have participated in this project is clear. What if electrolytes could transport both oxygen and hydrogen ions? What would happen, as has been shown, is that the hydrogen generation rate would grow significantly as hydrogen and oxygen could be produced by electrolysis on both sides of the cell.
The approach, which is reflected in the first mixed SOEC, has produced the expected result. “By controlling the environment of the conductive electrolyte of the hydrogen ion, achieving a mixed one in which two ions pass is something possible to do” , reaffirms Junyoung Kim, one of the authors of this project, which, incidentally, “results in a significant increase of the total hydrogen production ” .
But this is not the only strength of the approach, which offers more advantages. Among them, for example, there is a lower demand for electricity to produce hydrogen, in addition to a proven stability. In this sense, the researchers assure that after more than sixty hours of continuous operation, the system did not suffer degradation.
The chosen alternative also ensures that it is not necessary to replenish the electrolyte system when they are lost. Likewise, with it, corrosion problems are eliminated and the possibility of operating at temperatures between 700 and 1000 degrees is opened . With this, according to the experts, what is achieved is precisely the reduction of the necessary electricity consumption.
The pioneering concept is attracting enormous attention, as its proponents claim. And, for the moment, it far exceeds the rest of water electrolysis solutions. Therefore, it is not surprising that this innovation is positioned as one of the most promising alternatives for the most efficient and cost-effective hydrogen production.
More information at UNIST.