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Sep 15, 2022

World’s first direct air electrolyzer makes hydrogen from humidity

Posted by in categories: chemistry, solar power, sustainability

Australian researchers have developed and tested a way to electrolyze hydrogen straight out of the air, anywhere on Earth, without requiring any other fresh water source. The Direct Air Electrolyzer (DAE) absorbs and converts atmospheric moisture – even down to a “bone-dry” 4% humidity.

Such a machine could be particularly relevant to a country like Australia, which has ambitions as a clean energy exporter, along with enormous solar energy potential – but also widespread drought conditions and limited access to clean water. Decoupling hydrogen production from the need for a water supply could allow green hydrogen to be produced more or less anywhere you can ship it out from – and since water scarcity and solar potential often go hand in hand, this could prove a boon for much of Africa, Asia, India and the Middle East, too.

Chemical engineers at Melbourne University came up with what they describe as a simple design: an electrolyzer with two flat plates acting as anode and cathode. Sandwiched between the two plates is a porous material – melamine sponge, for example, or sintered glass foam. This medium is soaked in a hygroscopic ionic solution – a chemical that can absorb moisture from the air spontaneously.

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