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Hydrogen is seen as a promising energy source of the future. Once all the current difficulties concerning clean production and storage have been overcome, that is. According to Prof. Dr. Enno Wagner, Professor of Mechatronic Design and Technical Mechanics at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (Frankfurt UAS), hydrogen storage of the future is not only clean. It is also simple and decentralized.

From October 2020, the professor and his students want to collaborate on the development of a ‘smart tank for hydrogen.’ This should simplify hydrogen production. That way it could also be used in private homes. Hydrogen would be produced using electrolysis in a small-scale system that runs on renewable energy. For example, photovoltaic systems could be used. Plus, the system would be small enough to be installed in the cellar or garage. Such a system would make it possible for private households to produce and also store their own CO2-neutral energy.

First off, Wagner and his team want to build a prototype of the system. In the next step, they want to come up with a concrete use for the stored hydrogen. One possible usage would be an electrically operated cargo bicycle. This could be powered by hydrogen instead of a battery. Which in turn can be converted into electrical energy using a membrane fuel cell.

Diverse range of uses in the future

“Our aim is to show that hydrogen will play a major role as an energy source in the future. The electrically operated cargo bike is just one example. It just illustrates the everyday practicality of this technology,” Wagner explains. “There is far more potential for practical applications. For instance, hydrogen can be generated and stored during the day using solar energy to provide electrical energy for homes at night. In addition, hydrogen can light a gas oven, power a car, and much more. I’m really excited about the potential applications that the future will bring.”

The relevance of the project is not only rooted in practical applications. By adopting the National Hydrogen Strategy (NWS) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi), the German Federal Government aims to “create a coherent framework for action for the future production, transport, use and reuse of hydrogen.” This will also enable associated innovations and investments to take place.

With the aim of contributing additional know-how, Wagner and his team have found an industrial partner for the project in GASKATEL (Gaskatel Gesellschaft für Gassysteme durch Katalyse und Elektrochemie mbH or in English: Society for Gas Systems via Catalysis and Electrochemistry). All in all, the project clearly shows “that practical and applicable technologies for a more environmentally friendly future can be developed from the cooperation between teaching, research, industry, and state funding,” the researchers stress.

The project is financed by the “Research for Practice” funding program of The Hessen State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts (HMWK, Germany) with around € 40,000 over a period of 12 months.