Fuel for the future

Cooking with a hydrogen-powered barbeque

The need to shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy technologies is becoming more urgent, and Australia’s trading partners are demanding low-emission energy sources.

Electricity production from renewables can be variable, and any excess electricity must be stored for use on days with less wind or sun. Battery systems are used for storage, but they have limitations.

An alternative is to store energy in the form of hydrogen.

Materials such as magnesium can act like a sponge to absorb large amounts of hydrogen and then release it again under certain conditions. As a gas, hydrogen is highly explosive, but these materials bind the hydrogen for safe storage.

Professor Kondo-François Aguey-Zinsou from the University of New South Wales, with colleagues from CNRS (France’s national research agency) and the University of Montpellier are working to develop and improve these materials.

“The technologies to generate and use hydrogen are well established, but storage is not. Our EnergyH project is developing hydrogen storage in a safe, compact and economical way,” François says.

He sees a future in which hydrogen is produced at home as a fuel for numerous consumer products. It could be particularly important in supporting the economic growth of developing nations while the world moves to decarbonised energy systems.

“A solar panel can generate electricity to produce hydrogen from water. The hydrogen can then be stored in our materials and used later to power a cooking device, heat water or generate electricity,” François says.

“We have already developed a barbeque that uses this storage technology, and soon we will develop an integrated system for real-world residential testing on the island of La Réunion.”

Kondo-François Aguey-Zinsou is building real-world tools powered by hydrogen. Credit: EnergyH

Banner image: The H2Q is a safe and portable hydrogen-powered barbeque. Credit: EnergyH