KU Leuven researchers in Belgium have devised a hydrogen panel capable of converting water vapour from the air into hydrogen gas using sunlight. They say it can produce up to 250 litres of hydrogen per day at an efficiency of 15%. The technology is being developed under the Solhyd project and is nearing commercialisation.
The hydrogen panels use solar energy to divide water molecules to produce hydrogen gas. They are similar to solar modules, but they are connected via gas tubes instead of electric cables.
The tubes beneath the electricity-producing top layer produce hydrogen from water molecules extracted directly from the air using a membrane.
The researchers say the hydrogen panels are small-scale, modular, and ideal for decentralised production reported PV Magazine.
The H2 panels are compatible with existing PV modules.
“Solid hydrogen panels are compatible with most commercial modern PV modules, which are directly plugged into our system. This way, we can benefit from the ongoing developments and cost reductions in the PV industry,” KU Leuven researcher Jan Rongé told PV magazine.
“To further enhance this synergy, Solhyd hydrogen panels are compatible with common PV mounting structures.”
The researchers claim that approximately 20 panels can supply electricity and heat to a well-insulated house with a heat pump over the winter season.
The hydrogen panels do not store the hydrogen and operate at low pressure, which can mitigate safety issues and costs.
The panels can be used for several applications.
“In the shorter term, we are mostly targeting mid-sized applications, such as backup power, logistics, heavy transport, but also providing energy in the Global South,” said Rongé.
“Later, you could think of anything from large-scale ammonia production down to small-scale off-grid systems.”
The researchers have tested several prototypes since the project launched in 2011 and are now ready for scale production.
The team expects the hydrogen panels to hit the market in 2026 and foresee the price dropping when they start mass production.