A team of researchers at KU Leuven University in Belgium has developed panels that use solar energy to produce hydrogen.
The new systems are connected together by thin gas tubes instead of cables. Hydrogen is produced, from water vapour in the air, at low pressure and converted into electricity by a hydrogen fuel cell.
The gas can be compressed to be stored in a central tank for later use. However, this is expensive.
Scientists have been working on the technology for 10 years, and it will soon debut on the market through a startup called Solhyd.
There are few places in the world where the air is so dry that these panels can’t be used. According to the developers, the system can produce 250 litres of hydrogen a day at 15% efficiency.
So far, the adoption of hydrogen has been hampered by the fact that the production of this gas, which emits no CO2 when used as a fuel, is polluting.
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“Solhyd hydrogen panels are compatible with most modern commercially available photovoltaic modules,” Jan Rongé, a researcher at KU Leuven, told PV Magazine. The same goes for the panel holders.
According to the team, 20 hydrogen-producing panels can provide electricity and heat all winter for a well-insulated house equipped with an electric heat pump.
The hydrogen produced by the systems developed by KU Leuven could also be used in cars as a fuel.
Startup Solhyd is backed by the Belgian government, already has a factory and plans to produce 5,000 panels a year from 2026.
Another interesting hybrid system, which includes solar panels and wind turbines, has been developed by French startup Uneole. According to the company, its technology produces 40% more energy than solar panels mounted alone on the same surface.