Screen-printed electrodes could unlock hydrogen as sustainable fuel

HyperSolar to building pilot plant to test solar to hydrogen tech
Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Mr Doomits

Creating a renewable and sustainable source of energy from hydrogen that is also affordable could be unlocked with a university’s innovative use of screen-printed nanotechnology.

Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University will test a way to provide a green source of power that could be harnessed by remote communities who are off the electricity grid and reliant on imported diesel and petrol for generators.

The idea is to be able to print large volumes of inexpensive electrodes for use in electrolysers, a device that breaks water into its component oxygen and hydrogen.

The hydrogen can then be stored or transported and fed when needed into fuel cells to create electricity on demand as a more dependable and efficient source of fuel than solar, wind, wave and tidal energy.

It builds on previous Manchester Metropolitan University proof-of-concept work into finding an alternate way of manufacturing electrodes that are traditionally reliant on components made out of expensive platinum and iridium, metal elements whose cost prohibits cheap reproduction.

Under the project, the Manchester Metropolitan University team – led by Craig Banks, Professor in Electrochemical and Nanotechnology – plan to screen print a succession of electrodes with the necessary graphene-like nanotechnology embedded in a fluid carbon-based printer ink.

The screen-printing technique, which will take place at the University’s new £4 million Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre, would enable the electrodes to be printed in novel shapes and styles, as well as allowing them to be mass produced for industrial applications.

Manchester Metropolitan University’s prototype electrodes will be fitted into a stack of water electrolysis cells that will then be ‘harsh weather tested’ on Scotland’s Orkney archipelago.

The researchers are collaborating with the European Marine Energy Centre, the world-leading test and development centre for wave and tidal devices based on Orkney, Scotland, to research the capabilities and performance of the screen-printed electrolysers, the cells and the fuel cells.

There will be six months of electrode development at the University followed by installation of the electrolyser stack in Scotland and connection to a renewable energy system and then a further six months’ testing.