Illustration of a hydrogen production roof

HYPRO: Sustainable concepts Logo Hypro for the production, upgrading, and storage of H2

Platform Project - PP4.2

Integrating product-oriented research on the production, upgrading, and storage of H2 and linking hydrogen research towards use options and transfer

The smallest molecule on earth is diatomic hydrogen (H2). In the context of global climate change, this tiny molecule raises huge expectations as an efficient, carbon-neutral energy carrier of the future for the transformation of our society towards sustainability. On a systems level, this major and particularly urgent undertaking necessitates deep changes to our current fossil-based energy doctrines, with new and modular technological solutions for producing, processing, and storing hydrogen, but also individualized and local use options. The PP HYPRO aims at developing complementary processes, tools, and technologies, but also provides assessment and use option concepts as solution modules for a sustainable hydrogen economy. 

Energy transformation and provision accounts for about 80% of the anthropogenic carbon emissions, illustrating the need for alternative technologies that drive the energy transition (Energiewende) towards a future sustainable energy system. Hydrogen is considered a key energy carrier for a future green economy and will play a major role in this system, which will be composed of a mosaic of different energy transformation technologies that are fitted into regional and decentralized value chains. The mission of HYPRO is to support this transition by integrating the hydrogen activities at the UFZ towards the development of transferable technological and strategic products and foster the exchange with external partners from academia and industry.

Products of Hypro

HYPRO is organized in four thematically focused work packages to face the following challenges:
• Sustainable production routes towards hydrogen.
• Efficient and low-energy separation/purification of hydrogen as a chemical product
• Monitoring tools for large-scale hydrogen storage concepts
• Sustainability assessment of hydrogen technologies

HYPRO long-time perspective

Workpackage 1 – H2 production

The focus of WP 1 is on the development of alternative hydrogen production technologies that complement established production routes. A particular emphasis is on the development of decentralized and modular hydrogen production technologies that can be fit to scale and coupled to local use options such as a personalized gas station or the energy provision for off-grid households. Two main technologies are in focus: continuous production of photobiogenic hydrogen with cyanobacteria (“white hydrogen”) and radiation-assisted water-splitting (“burning water”). The work package integrates the development of the respective photobiocatalysts, reactors, and reaction concepts, as well as hydrogen analytics and sensors.

Workpackage 2 – H2 processing

WP2 includes the development of hydrogen upgrading and separation technologies. As gaseous hydrogen has a low energy density, efficient downstream processing is required for oxyhydrogen (“Knallgas”) separation that is inevitably formed during water-splitting. Passive, membrane-assisted separation technologies fulfill these needs and might be a key to enabling economically viable hydrogen processes. Safety aspects are included in the WP´s research line by integrating reaction and separation concepts (in-situ removal). Another aspect of hydrogen processing is upgrading, e.g. the removal of water from the hydrogen stream, which can be accomplished by adsorber-based drying processes with integrated radio wave-assisted zeolite regeneration.

Workpackage 3 – H2 storage

Using renewable energy for producing hydrogen (e.g. via photovoltaics-coupled electrolysis) entails diurnal and seasonal changes in energy availability and demand. As a result, large hydrogen storage capacities with flexible withdrawal and filling capabilities are needed. Underground storage of hydrogen in pore reservoirs or cavern storage capacities can be used for this, but the fate of hydrogen, e.g. due to microbial degradation or transformation, is largely unknown. WP3, therefore, develops monitoring and assessment strategies (Speicher-TÜV) for “microbial oxidation safe” underground hydrogen storage.

Central project – Sustainability assessment

This overarching project aims at the sustainability assessment of hydrogen-related technological solutions based on advanced modeling and evaluation approaches. This includes future-oriented techno-economic analyses (mass and energy balancing) of these solutions in the future energy system, with a strong focus on the realization and implementation of the respective technologies in (regional) energy systems. Moreover, the central project aims at building a stakeholder network that represents a cross-section of society, science, politics, and industry and thereby pools knowledge and interests as an input for strategic foresight analysis of future hydrogen systems. The central project is a cooperation between RU6 (PP6.2 Transforming Energy Landscapes) and the PP HYPRO.