Methods to split water are also often unfeasibly energy intensive, and the required catalyst materials can break down too quickly before the necessary change occurs.
“Improvements in energy conversion and storage are absolutely essential for a successful and sustainable energy economy. Because energy from solar and wind sources is intermittent, our research sought to discover an efficient way of storing renewable-sourced power,” said Dr Zhao.
Dr Zhao’s colleague and recipient of the 2020 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation, Professor Thomas Maschmeyer, said Australia was in a good position to capitalise on the technology.
“Australia is extremely well-placed to advance green hydrogen technology, both as manufacturer and consumer. Hydrogen can be used for energy storage as well as an agent replacing gas, oil and coal,” Professor Maschmeyer, from Sydney Nano and the School of Chemistry, said.
“Not only are we the world’s largest iron-ore producer and a leading supplier of nickel and cobalt, but our abundance of sunshine and wind means that hydrogen could transform our domestic energy system as well as create many opportunities in sustainable manufacturing,” he said.
Dr Zhao said: “Just recently we witnessed a worldwide commitment to a clean energy future. What we now require is significant investment from industry and government to wholly develop hydrogen technologies.”
The New South Wales government recently announced a $32 billion renewable energy plan. Dr Zhao believes research like his could be used to develop long-range hydrogen powered aircraft and fuel cells for industrial purposes.
The team now hopes to work with a collaborator to build a larger-scale device.