IIT-Madras researchers invent device to make hydrogen fuel from seawater

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 18 Jan 2020

India’s automotive industry could soon be able to accelerate their development for cleaner energy. According to a PTI report, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have invented a device that can be used to generate hydrogen fuel from seawater.

The report states that using the technology, described in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, hydrogen can be produced on-demand at the point of use, and hence it need not to be stored. The researchers, including Abdul Malek, Tiju Thomas, Associate Professor at IIT Madras, said they are working to customise and design a proper hydrogen system for vehicles.

This would do away with the challenge for storage that is generally associated with hydrogen as its highly inflammable and may cause an explosion, the researchers said. Hydrogen is looked upon as a fuel of the future, thanks to its abundance in nature, as combustion of hydrogen does not produce carbon dioxide, unlike fossil fuels, making it a ''clean'' source of energy, the researchers said. The IIT-Madras team is even targeting running cars and bikes by seawater using hydrogen.

Speaking to PTI, Abdul Malek from the Department of Chemistry, IIT Madras said: "As the hydrogen can be produced at the point of use on-demand, safety issues associated with the storage and transportation of hydrogen is avoided. The solid starting materials can be transported from one place to another place very conveniently. It bypasses the transportation bottleneck associated with hydrogen sector."

The researchers noted that hydrogen is produced at a tunable rate without heat, electricity or sunlight. The starting materials are all eco-friendly. The process is amenable to all scales of production that is relevant for the hydrogen economy -- hence sectors such as automotive and aviation among others would benefit from this technology, added the Researchers.

"Hydrogen is the future. We want to make it ‘the present'. I am waiting for the day when our invention will fuel the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) rockets or Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO) missiles," said Malek.

The report states that the technology is used to generate hydrogen from any source of water. However, as seawater covers two-thirds of the surface of the Earth, the researchers are keen on utilising it. The easy-to-use prototype device can produce hydrogen fuel with the push of a button, which adds water from one compartment to the other, the scientists said.

"We are working towards making it like a coffee machine so that any common man can press a switch and produce hydrogen when required," Malek said.

The device contains two compartments stacked one above the other. Users can add seawater or tap water from the top compartment. In the bottom section, there are materials which can produce hydrogen by splitting water. As soon as water reaches the bottom compartment, hydrogen production occurs and can be collected via an outlet, the researchers said.

The outlet tube can be connected to customised engines which run vehicles or produce electricity. "The water addition rate can control the amount of hydrogen produced and flow depending on the requirement. The technical details are patent protected. The process is scalable. The amount can be produced according to the need. Hence hydrogen for mobility such as for cars etc is eminently possible via due customisation,” added Malek.

The researchers noted that commercial method requires high temperature about 1,000 degrees Celsius, and nearly 25 bar pressure. However, the new process works at the room temperature, and atmospheric pressure which is 1 bar, they said.

"Our current estimates indicate that the cost is likely comparable to the available prices -- things could change with scale. However, the key selling point is enhanced safety, and elimination of point-of-use environmental pollution," added Malek.

Source: PTI