Aberdeen University has bagged £220,000 to boost a project aimed at creating a process for obtaining hydrogen from organic waste.
The cash comes from the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP), a scheme spearheaded by the UK Government’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Researchers at the university’s School of Engineering are working to establish whether organic matter in food, waste, manure and other biodegradable wastes can be converted to hydrogen.
From there, the low carbon fuel could be used to power homes and businesses on a commercial scale.
Hydrogen is seen as something of a panacea in the energy transition, and is being earmarked as a solution for decarbonising large swathes of the economy.
UK Government energy minister, Greg Hands said: “Accelerating home-grown renewables like biomass is a key part of ending our dependency on expensive and volatile fossil fuels. This £37 million of government investment will support innovation across the UK, boosting jobs whilst ensuring greater energy security for years to come.”
The Aberdeen University project is being led by Professor Davide Dionisi, and involves several leading academics.
In addition to researchers from the institution’s Department of Chemistry, there is also participation from Cranfield University in England and the Verona University in Italy.
The project will use a sequence of biological, thermochemical and electrochemical stages to maximise the conversion of organic matter into hydrogen.
Professor Dionisi, who is a renowned specialist in biomass research, said: “Hydrogen is a key energy vector in the energy transition, and generating hydrogen from organic waste would achieve the combined benefits of reducing environmental pollution and of generating green sustainable energy.
“So far there is no commercial process that produces hydrogen from organic waste, but our proposed process combines waste treatment with energy generation and can be entirely powered from renewable electricity, thereby providing a more sustainable alternative to other processes for hydrogen production from non-renewable and renewable resources.”
In order to advance the project, an innovative process will be adopted, consisting of four main reaction stages – dark fermentation, anaerobic digestion, plasma reforming and steam gasification.
By scaling up and integrating these phases, researchers aim to maximise the hydrogen yield from organic waste.
Professor Dionisi added: “I am delighted that our research has been recognised by the UK Government as being among the most promising in the UK in terms of delivering a sustainable hydrogen-producing process at a commercial scale.
“The project may move the proposed process closer to commercialisation, with the ultimate impact of reducing the energy consumption, land and water requirements of green hydrogen production in the UK and globally.”