Xie Heping, a Chinese mechanics and energy engineering scientist, along with a doctoral team consisting of researchers from Shenzhen University and Sichuan University under Xie’s supervision, published a paper in Nature on Nov. 30.
The paper entitled “A membrane-based seawater electron for hydrogen generation” has solved an important problem of hydrogen production by direct electrolysis of seawater. The domestic technology is expected to contribute to the development of the emerging global marine green hydrogen industry.
Xie and his team raised a new theory and technology for in-situ direct electrolysis of hydrogen without desalination driven by phase transition from their new idea of combining physical mechanics and electrochemistry. This method completely isolates seawater ions and uses breakthrough electrolysis hydrogen production technology without needing to desalinate the seawater input.
Xie’s team also developed the world’s first set of direct electrolysis hydrogen production equipment that can process 400 liters of seawater per hour in place. It can also run in Shenzhen Bay seawater for over 3,200 hours in a row. The equipment has proven to be a stable and large-scale hydrogen production directly using seawater.
The team further developed acidic and alkaline solid gel electrolytes to show that the phase transition strategy is suitable for different electrolyte materials and is expected to accompany the iterative development of proton exchange membrane (PEM) and anion exchange membrane (AEM) electrolysis technologies. At the same time, this method can be used to explore diversified water resources such as river water and wastewater to directly produce hydrogen, providing a new path of multi-effect utilization for resource enrichment and energy production.
A reviewer from Nature commented on the study, saying, “The work of this paper provides a method to apply undrinkable water to the production of sustainable fuels which is a technological breakthrough.”
Hydrogen energy is an important direction in the future of energy development, and its application is wide-ranging, but a shortage of fresh water resources has seriously restricted the development of “green hydrogen” technology.
The tech is expected to be used for building factories that could generate hydrogen by direct electrolysis of seawater. This technology could boost the development of Chinese marine green hydrogen.