The hydrogen solar panel is another breakthrough in the race to be energy independent and banish fossil fuels from our lives. Since the middle of the last century, there have been researchers, universities and companies focused on obtaining methods for generate clean and cheap energy.
However, not long ago this has intensified, with the added objective of changing the energy paradigm and reverse the effects of climate change. If, in addition, we stop depending on other countries to obtain energy, all the better.
Generate green hydrogen
Much research and energy projects focus on the generation of hydrogen to use it as fuel in different services. On the one hand, hydrogen can be a substitute for natural gas in our homes, for cooking or as fuel for heating boilers.
However, there are methods that produce hydrogen from fossil fuels and therefore cannot be classified as green. Today, the only way to produce hydrogen with zero emissions is from the electrolysis of water. The rest of the processes involve the use of techniques that do emit CO2 to the atmosphere.
There are other investigations that have developed products that are capable of generating green hydrogen. Between them a special kind of sun painting, which when the sun’s rays fall on it is capable of dissociating the water contained in the ambient humidity and generating hydrogen. However, the difficulty in collecting the hydrogen produced has meant that it has not advanced and can be marketed.
With the new hydrogen solar panel this is no longer the case, since this fuel gas is produced internally and can be piped and stored.
Origin of the hydrogen solar panel
The concern for generate a green and really cheap fuel has led researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium to work on a system that generates hydrogen and can be collected. Thus they have developed a solar panel that takes advantage of sunlight and humidity in the air.
The team led by Johan Martens, professor in the Department of Chemistry in the Faculty of Bioengineering of the aforementioned university, has been the one that has developed the hydrogen solar panel. They have been working for ten years develop a photovoltaic collector special. His initial axiom was to produce hydrogen from the water vapor present in the air..
With the development of this hydrogen collector, they ensure that a family should be able to be autonomous in electricity and heating throughout the year, with around twenty of these panels. The classic recipe for hydrogen production requires water and electricity.
However, until now electricity was generated from the combustion that implied burning carbon. These researchers were aware that, environmentally, it could be done better. Thus, his challenge has been to produce hydrogen from renewable sources.
How does the hydrogen panel work?
Obviously, its creators have not given technical explanations of the internal workings. However, they have given some clues. For example, we know that during the tests the prototype panel was capable of generating a daily average of about 250 liters of hydrogen throughout the year.
Thus, according to the researchers’ estimates, a matrix of 20 hydrogen solar panelslike the one developed by them, together with a pressurized tank, it could fully provide a home’s heating and electricity needs at greatly reduced costthroughout the year.
However, its performance is still a bit lower than the photovoltaic collectors we see on many rooftops. At the moment, the yield of the developed prototype is 15%. Instead, self-consumption solar panels can easily exceed that figure, often reaching 18 or 20%.
However, the advantage of this approach is that large amounts of hydrogen can be stored in an underground pressurized tank, at a pressure of about 400 bar. Besides, does not have the inevitable capacity losses that occur in battery technology.
Using fuel cells, tank reserves can be converted at will in heating, electricity or fuel for a hydrogen powered vehicle with a conversion efficiency of 90 percent.
Another advantage of this innovation is that the green hydrogen production could be done on a domestic scale. On the other hand, hydrogen is currently produced using natural gas or oil, as the source of electricity, and it is also carried out in large plants so that it is moderately profitable.
Another fact that has been known is that the real innovation is inside the hydrogen solar panel, since the surface on which the sun falls is still a normal photovoltaic panel. This generates the electricity that is needed inside the panel to produce hydrogen from the humidity in the air. However, the operation of this inner part is a mystery. Only by accessing the patent can we reveal how it works.