Design Engineering

Engineering profs awarded grant to research low-cost hydrogen production

Four-year project will further develop technology for light-powered generation of hydrogen fuel from water.

June 18, 2010   by DE staff

Two professors at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) have been awarded $883,000 for the engineering design, research and construction of a pre-commercial pilot plant that will use water and solar energy to generate hydrogen gas.

Over the next four years, Dr. Ibrahim Dincer and Dr. Greg Naterer, professors with UOIT’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, will receive funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and cash and in-kind support from Toronto-based Phoenix Canada Oil Company Limited. The funding will be used to further develop Phoenix’s low cost production system, which is required to scale up a new photochemical technology that uses photosynthesis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

 “Researchers around the world have attempted for decades to use sunlight for efficiently generating hydrogen from water, but unsuccessfully from a practical and economic perspective,” said Dr. Naterer, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Advanced Energy Systems and principal investigator. “We’re grateful to Phoenix Canada Oil and NSERC for their support of this project that promises to significantly reduce the costs of converting solar to chemical energy in the form of hydrogen.”

 The technology is based on a proprietary photochemical system that simulates artificial photosynthesis. It uses molecular photocatalysts that absorb sunlight to bring electrons together and facilitate the water splitting process, without being degraded or consumed over time. This project will develop, analyze, fabricate and test the equipment required for the engineering system. It will also identify possible improvements and enable the development of a pre-commercial hydrogen pilot plant on UOIT’s north Oshawa campus, where the prototype will be built and tested using artificial sunlight under controlled conditions.

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