Cheaper hydrogen as researchers collaborate with industry
An industrial doctoral project at Umeå University receives coveted funding from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, SSF. The aim is to find ways to produce hydrogen without using expensive precious metals.
Text: Sara-Lena Brännström
Eduardo Gracia, associate professor at the Department of Physics.
Every year since 2014, SSF has awarded SEK 30 million to research projects in natural science, technology and medicine that involve collaborations between academia and industry.
This year, one of the selected projects is found at Umeå University. It is about the production of hydrogen and is a collaboration with the company Permascand AB, which develops technology in the field.
Hydrogen is an interesting fuel because it has a high energy density
"The aim of this type of project is to use the scientific expertise at the university and transfer it to the company" says Eduardo Gracia, associate professor at the Department of Physics and head of resesearch.
Green energy sources are important for reducing pollution and minimize effects on global warming. One such energy source is hydrogen.
"Hydrogen is an interesting fuel because it has a high energy density. You can get three times as much energy out of a kilogram of hydrogen compared to a kilogram of diesel" says Eduardo Gracia.
Hydrogen without precious metals
To make hydrogen, you have to split water into its components: hydrogen and oxygen.
"The problem is that in order to split the water we need an electrocatalyst, but the metals we normally use, like iridium and ruthenium, are very expensive. The other problem is that there is a limited amount of these metals in the world. In this project, we team with Permascand, which is aware of this issue and wants to eliminate the expensive catalysts. The aim is to develop materials with abundant elements such as nickel, iron or phosphorus. And ideally without precious metals."
Eduardo Gracia has been conducting research in Umeå since 2012 and specializes in the development of nanomaterials used in, for example, catalysts and sensors. In this industrial doctoral project, the focus area is electrocatalysis for water electrolysis in the industry.
The project starts in spring 2023 and is co-funded by Permascand. Other funding comes from the Foundation for Strategic Research and will be used for hiring a PhD student. For SSF to support a project, the research area must be strategically relevant and strengthen Sweden's competitiveness.
Eduardo Gracia is looking forward to collaborating and sharing knowledge with the industry.
"It's not very common for researchers to be involved from scratch right through to the final application" he says.