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By  Cat Shine 1 March 2024 2 min read

Key points

  • Australian start-up, Sparc Hydrogen, is developing next-gen green hydrogen production technology.
  • The company collaborated with our researchers to test and validate their prototype as part of the CSIRO Kick-Start program.
  • The successful project has brought the tech a step closer to solving real-world sustainability challenges with affordable green hydrogen.

Sparc Hydrogen, an innovative Adelaide-based start-up, is poised to address the urgent need for cleaner and more sustainable energy solutions. The company’s groundbreaking photocatalytic water splitting (PWS) reactor represents a significant leap forward in renewable energy technologies. It has the potential to make green hydrogen, a sustainable and eco-friendly energy source, more efficient and accessible to industry.

Green hydrogen is typically produced through electrolysis, a process that uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Sparc Hydrogen’s PWS reactor uses concentrated solar energy to achieve the same conversion without relying on electricity.

It has lower infrastructure requirements and reduced energy consumption compared to traditional electrolysis. This could be a cost-effective solution for industries seeking green hydrogen energy alternatives.


Kick-Starting research collaboration

Led by Sparc Hydrogen’s Prof Greg Metha, the start-up collaborated with our Solar Thermal Engineering Team as part of the CSIRO Kick-Start program.

Greg said the program was crucial to facilitating their PWS reactor prototype testing.

“Support from Kick-Start made the prototype testing possible. It connected us with research expertise and provided vital facilitation and funding,” he said.

The collaboration presented a unique opportunity for our researchers and an Australian company to exchange knowledge and insights. Together, they focused on addressing a global sustainability challenge through cooperative efforts. 

"The program exemplifies CSIRO's commitment to empowering Australian start-ups and small businesses to innovate,” Greg said.

A milestone for green hydrogen

The CSIRO and Sparc Hydrogen teams conducted on-sun testing at the CSIRO Energy Centre. This involved testing the reactor prototype under actual sunlight conditions, rather than in a laboratory or controlled environment. This is a crucial step in evaluating the performance, efficiency, and durability of solar devices in real-world situations.

Wil Garner is our Solar Thermal Engineering Team Leader. He was impressed by the successful outcomes.

“We tested the PWS reactor in real-world on-sun conditions using solar photons reflected off heliostats. The testing allowed us to manipulate solar concentration and temperature. This led to multiple on-sun trials successfully generating hydrogen gas,” Wil said.

"The process validated findings from earlier lab testing and helped us identify several reactor design modifications for future testing.”

Revolutionising green hydrogen production

Sparc Hydrogen is on a mission to commercialise their PWS technology to revolutionise green hydrogen production. They’re doing further testing at the CSIRO Energy Centre this year. The plan is to establish a pilot plant for end-to-end hydrogen production.

A recent $500,000 Australian Government grant bolstered their work to advance the PWS reactor technology.

This project was made possible through the CSIRO Kick-Start program. The program provides funding and support to innovative Australian start-ups and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access CSIRO’s research expertise and capabilities.

In the video below, Greg provides an overview of Sparc Hydrogen's testing at the CSIRO Energy Centre.

[Image appears of Professor Greg Metha talking to the camera, and text appears: Professor Greg Metha, Lead Researcher, Sparc Hydrogen]

Professor Greg Metha: My name is Professor Greg Metha, lead researcher for Sparc Hydrogen.

[Image changes to show a close view of a researcher undoing a screw in a piece of equipment, and then the camera zooms out so show the researcher at work and looking at a computer]

Sparc Hydrogen is developing photocatalytic water splitting technology as an alternative method for producing renewable green hydrogen at industrial scale.

[Image changes to show a close view of a lid being put onto the small piece of equipment, and then the image changes to show a diagram of the process of converting water into hydrogen and oxygen]

Photocatalysis uses the sun’s energy incident on a highly specialised photocatalyst to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen.

[Image changes to show a view of a facing and side view of a researcher looking down, and then the image changes to show the researcher opening a cabinet and making adjustments inside]

For this reason photocatalysis is often referred to as a direct solar to hydrogen technology as it obviates the need to produce electricity to split water via electrolysis.

[Images move through to show the researcher looking down, and then two researchers looking at a piece of equipment on an outside platform]

Sparc Hydrogen has developed a reactor for photocatalytic water splitting which utilises concentrated sunlight in order to reduce photocatalyst use and increase reaction efficiency.

[Images move through to show a view from the platform, the two researchers in conversation on the platform, and the two researchers looking at data on a computer screen and talking]

This is world leading testing which allows us to vary solar concentration and temperature at different times of the day whilst measuring hydrogen production rates at industrial scale.

[Images move through to show the researchers looking out of a window at the platform, views of the CSIRO Energy Centre, and a researcher looking at a diagram of the reactor on a computer screen]

Sparc Hydrogen is currently testing a prototype reactor at the CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle, New South Wales.

[Images move through to show various close and aerial views of the solar panels and the outdoor platform at the CSIRO Energy Centre]

Support from the CSIRO Kickstart Programme has been crucial to make the prototype testing possible, connecting us with the right research expertise and providing vital facilitation and funding for the project.

[Image changes to show a view looking at the outdoor platform, and then the image changes to show an aerial view looking down on the solar panels]

The programme exemplifies CSIRO’s commitment to empowering Australian start ups and small businesses to innovate.

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