Hydrogen platform officially launched

(24-11-2021) Louis Sileghem brought together all Ghent University researchers working on hydrogen. By creating a hydrogen community within Ghent University, this IOF platform aims to stimulate cross-fertilization and collaboration between disciplines.

'We are facing the definitive breakthrough of hydrogen as a green “fuel”,' says Louis Sileghem. “Flanders wants to become a European leader in technology and the next ten years are crucial in that regard. The hydrogen platform bundles expertise and helps to set up collaborations. The exchange of knowledge about hydrogen and improving cooperation and coordination is important in this regard.'

Ideal for storing energy

The potential of hydrogen is shown by the fact that it is often labeled as the missing link for greening sectors that are difficult to electrify. Louis Sileghem explains: 'Hydrogen is a gaseous molecule that does not occur on Earth by itself. It can be used as an energy carrier. Suppose you have a surplus of electrical energy from solar panels or windmills, then you can convert that into chemical energy. This is done by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, a process that does not involve CO2 emissions.' In other words, a green process.

An additional advantage: the energy contained in the hydrogen can be stored for months or in principle even years. Louis: 'A major challenge for renewable energy is storage, especially with large quantities for seasonal storage. For example, the overproduction of solar panels in the summer can be absorbed for reuse in the winter. By converting these into green molecules such as hydrogen, companies can provide renewable energy at any time.'

The energy obtained in this way is also valuable and necessary in many sectors. Louis: 'Hydrogen can be used pure or converted into more complex molecules such as methanol, ammonia or methane. The chemical industry uses these green molecules as raw materials and as fuel for processes that require higher temperatures, the transport sector as fuel for heavy transport such as ships or aircraft.'

Sharing knowledge with companies

Hydrogen III.jpgThe hydrogen platform focuses on (multidisciplinary) valorisation possibilities for hydrogen and is committed to making hydrogen expertise within Ghent University more visible. For example, the platform wants to set up more collaborations, both within and outside the university.

“There is still a gap between academia and business. We try to bridge this gap by sharing our knowledge about the production of hydrogen (but just as much about the storage, transport, distribution and conversion), the application possibilities and the economic and (geo)political impact.”

A collaboration can range from short advice to a project that lasts for months or years. At the moment, for example, companies are looking at how green molecules can be supplied as marine fuel, which engines run on hydrogen, which metals go together with it, ... Louis: “It is important for companies in Belgium to be on board now, otherwise they will miss the boat."

Interested in collaborating with the Hydrogen platform? Contact Louis Sileghem (Louis.Sileghem@UGent.be).