Researchers discover a new way to produce hydrogen using microwaves

Posted: November 6, 2020 by oldbrew in Batteries, Energy, hydrogen, research
Tags: ,

Some extraordinary claims are being made, or at least suggested, here. The idea of charging a battery in a few seconds, especially a lithium one, using microwaves (not the kitchen version) sounds a bit hairy to say the least.
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A team of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) has discovered a new method that makes it possible to transform electricity into hydrogen or chemical products solely using microwaves — without cables and without any type of contact with electrodes, reports TechXplore.

This represents a revolution in the field of energy research and a key development for the process of industrial decarbonisation, as well as for the future of the automotive sector and the chemical industry, among many others.

The study has been published in the latest edition of Nature Energy, where the discovery is explained.

The technology developed and patented by the UPV and CSIC is based on the phenomenon of the microwave reduction of solid materials.

This method makes it possible to carry out electrochemical processes directly without requiring electrodes, which simplifies and significantly cheapens its practical use, as it provides more freedom in the design of the structure of the device and choosing the operation conditions, mainly the temperature.

“It is a technology with great practical potential, especially for its use in storing energy and producing synthetic fuels and green chemical products. This aspect has significant importance today, as both transportation and industry are immersed in a transition to decarbonise, meaning they have to meet very demanding goals between 2030 and 2040 to decrease the consumption of energy and substances from fossil sources, mainly natural gas and oil,” highlights José Manuel Serra, research lecturer of the CSIC at the Chemical Technology Institute.

Green hydrogen for industrial and transportation uses

The main use of this revolutionary technology is the production of green hydrogen (produced without emitting greenhouse gasses) from water for industrial and transportation uses.

As noted by the ITQ and ITACA team, it is a technology with great potential for the automotive sector, specifically for cars fuelled by fuel cells and hybrids or large vehicles such as trains or ships.

But also for the chemical industry, metallurgy, the ceramic sector or the production of fertilizers, among many other sectors.

“This method will make it possible to transform renewable electricity, typically of solar or wind origin, into added value products and green fuels. It has countless uses and we hope that new uses emerge for the storing of energy, developing new materials and chemical production,” highlights José Manuel Catalá, researcher at the ITACA institute of the UPV.

In the article published in Nature Energy, the researchers also provide a technical and economic study that shows that this technology would make it possible to obtain high energetic efficiency, and that the cost of the facilities to carry out the hydrogen production process are very competitive compared to conventional technologies.

Ultra-fast charging of batteries

The UPV and CSIC team is studying other future uses for this technology, and is currently focusing its efforts on its use for the ultra-fast charging of batteries.

“Our technology could enable a practically instantaneous decrease in the size of the electrode (metallic anode) that stores energy. In other words, we would go from a layer-based progressive charging process, which can take hours, to a simultaneous process in the entire electrolyte, which would make it possible to charge a battery in a few seconds,” says José Manuel Catalá.

Full report here.

  1. Gamecock says:

    It will put 7 Up in all the water fountains.

    ‘This represents a revolution in the field of energy research and a key development for the process of industrial decarbonisation, as well as for the future of the automotive sector and the chemical industry, among many others.’

    Quite a leap. They got it to work in the lab. Nothing more.

    As always, the purpose of these releases is to get us to believe that decarbonisation is possible.


    Supplying global energy demand with CO2-free technologies is becoming feasible thanks to the rising affordability of renewable resources.’

  2. jarlgeir says:

    The other purpose of such releases is to keep the research funding flowing, even after they have found out that this cannot possibly work.

  3. oldbrew says:

    ‘thanks to the rising affordability of renewable resources’ – due mainly to so-called ‘carbon’ taxes.

    But that’s levelling up the costs, not levelling down, so affordability is the wrong word. Anyway, solar panels could be about to get less ‘affordable’…

    5 Nov 2020

    The world’s biggest solar power company says a shortage of glass is raising costs and delaying production of new panels, throwing a wrench into China’s plans to accelerate its shift to clean power.

    Prices for glass that coats photovoltaic panels have risen 71% since July, and manufacturers are struggling to produce it fast enough to keep more than a week’s worth of sales in inventory, according to Daiwa Capital Markets. The shortage comes as the solar industry turns toward bifacial panels, which increase both power output and glass requirements.

  4. ivan says:

    As usual with all these ‘green’ discoveries they miss out several very important points
    a) where does the electricity to run them come from?
    b) what is the efficiency of the process?
    c) will it scale up from the lab?
    d) if c) is possible, at what cost?

    When we have answers to those questions we might be able to do an evaluation, until then it is just more pie in the sky proposed by wackademics from their ivory towers.

  5. stpaulchuck says:

    what is the cost per KWh produced with this process and the generator to use it vs. natgas or nuclear based output? What is the miles driven per dollar for this fuel and the engine to use it vs. good old gasoline and diesel?

    Those numbers will be “unavailable” of course. Either that or heavily subsidized values like for the stupid windmills.

  6. oldbrew says:

    At least windmills boosted flour production, and still do in some places.

  7. Damian says:

    jarlgeir:” The other purpose of such releases is to keep the research funding flowing, even after they have found out that this cannot possibly work.”
    And boost their share price, a favourite ploy of tech companies.

  8. JB says:

    “alterations to the conductivity at relatively low temperatures (approximately 300ºC).”
    That’s a serious materials problem right there. I just don’t see how a battery can be “instantly” recharged while avoiding high temperatures and their additional deleterious effects.

    Magnetrons like power tubes (valves) run at 65% efficiency at best, and then there is the efficiency of the power supply that brings the energy conversion down further. Solid state devices aren’t much better.

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