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By Lucy Crook 26 April 2023 3 min read

As a post doctorate, Dr Gurpreet Kaur had big ambitions. Working with her team, she wanted to drive innovation in Australia’s hydrogen production technology. The goal? To reduce the high amount of energy needed in hydrogen production.

Producing green hydrogen poses a significant challenge due to the high amount of electricity required in electrolysis. The team decided to explore using solid oxide electrolysis (SOE) technology as a solution.

“We developed and evaluated materials for this technology, looking for efficient ways to generate hydrogen and syngas,” Gurpreet recalled.

“We found that some of the materials were really unique and efficient. So even when we hit roadblocks in this project, we were confident we could leverage the advantages of some of those unconventional materials and wind up with a successful outcome. One with many industry applications.”

Not only can the new technology reduce the electricity requirement, it has the potential to reduce manufacturing costs. Now, we’re now partnering with Australian industry and investors to commercialise the tech.

From research to patent to impact

Gurpreet and her team, the innovators behind this breakthrough, have accelerated through an intensive research discovery-to-commercialisation journey. They're focusing on building a team to help us take the technology to market.

The team explored using tubular SOE technology to produce hydrogen from steam, or syngas (synthesis gas) from steam/CO2 feedstock. They experienced both success and failure along the way.

“With the major shift towards new clean technologies for sustainable energy and fuel production in recent years, we knew we had to find a competitive edge. We focused on achieving a lower cost of fuel by developing efficient materials and processes,” Gurpreet said.

This technology can replace almost one third of the electricity required for hydrogen production with low-cost or waste thermal heat from industrial processes. It has potential to decarbonise industries globally.

Our wealth of intellectual property (IP) is adopted to create new products, services, jobs and industries, resulting in competitive advantage for partners, strong returns for investors and economic prosperity for Australia.

“When we knew we were onto something, we started working with our IP managers to begin the IP protection journey. It was an exciting breakthrough moment to learn our research was unique and could have significant impact.”

The path to an industry-endorsed spinout

The project’s success has attracted plenty of industry attention and collaboration along the way. This includes $2.5 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to further develop and scale-up the technology in collaboration with international partners RayGen, Johnson Matthey, Ben-Gurion University, Northwestern University and ADME Fuels.

The project was also awarded $1.7 million by Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF). In addition, BlueScope Steel and RFC Ambrian will offer support as industrial and commercial partners, with a total project cost of $3.2 million. The SIEF funding will be complemented by contributions from industry partners. It will support the demonstration and start-up of an experimental program and parallel activities for scaling and growth.

The team is pleased to have surpassed technical objectives six months into the program.

Andrew Jones, project commercialisation lead said higher efficiency at lower electrical input increases the market appeal of the technology. In addition, low-cost materials, simplicity of manufacture and flexibility in configuration add to its appeal.

“Hydrogen and syngas (H2/CO) are the feedstock for the production of many value-added chemicals and fuels. So, this technology has a wide range of applications across industries. This includes in steel, ammonia, petrochemical, methanol and heavy transport,” Andrew said.

“Government and international policies are continuously emerging to support a green hydrogen industry, and global targets of low-cost hydrogen are in place for industries to achieve decarbonisation goals.”

“The technology is good news for industry because it helps them meet these targets. It also dramatically lowers manufacturing costs and cuts out the technical challenges of storing and transporting hydrogen at scale by using hydrogen directly in processes like ammonia and methanol synthesis and steel making.”

We are now commercialising the technology through a new spin-out company and connecting with strategic and industrial investors.

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