Why are we technology open?

Technology openness is important because it will be different forms of hydrogen derivatives and hydrogen technologies, depending on the application and location, that have the best combination of sustainability and cost. In principle, this is not so different from our old fossil world, where we also use coal, heavy oil, paraffin, petrol and gas, depending on whether we want to power a container ship or heat a family home. The future global hydrogen economy will offer room for many different forms of hydrogen supply, as compressed hydrogen or in the form of liquid organic hydrogen carriers, but also as ammonia, methanol or formic acid.

How does green hydrogen reach the customer?

An important pillar of our future energy system is chemical hydrogen storage. In this process, green electrical power is converted into energy-rich molecules that can then be stored over a long period of time, transported over longer distances and used, for example, in industry or to power large vehicles. The energy-rich molecules discussed today are often also referred to as hydrogen derivatives because they are created by bonding hydrogen to a carrier molecule. Suitable carrier molecules are nitrogen or CO2, but also organic liquids, which – as we know from the principle of the deposit bottle – can be used in multiple loading and unloading cycles. It is important that all technologies form a sustainable hydrogen cycle. Cycle means, for example, reusing the carrier molecule used as often as possible.

Key steps for chemical hydrogen storage are the bonding of hydrogen to the carrier molecule at the point of production and the release of hydrogen at the customer’s site, for example in an industrial plant, at a hydrogen filling station or for injection into a pipeline. Both processes use reaction accelerators, so-called catalysts. The injection and release apparatuses, together with the necessary auxiliary units and hydrogen purification units, form suitable process solutions.  We are working on various projects to optimise catalysts, apparatus and the corresponding processes for different storage technologies in order to create attractive products that are in demand in large quantities.

Where is basic research still necessary?

The INW and the HC-H2 work in a technology-open manner. This means that we are endeavouring to research all technologies and ideas and to quickly bring them into application that will make hydrogen a storage option suitable for everyday use in the climate-friendly energy industry of the future. Depending on the carrier used, research is currently still needed on aspects of power density in order to be able to store or release as much hydrogen or energy as possible in the smallest possible installation space. There is also still great potential for improvement in aspects of heat integration, for example to provide the heat needed to release the hydrogen as efficiently as possible from the process itself in order to increase overall economic efficiency.

In addition to optimisation in the laboratory, exchange and networking with industrial partners is crucial for this. With cooperation, our technologies can be optimally integrated into companies‘ systems and concepts. This mutual integration results not only in the solution of a specific problem, but also in an increase in efficiency of all individual components. After such a „hand-in-hand“ development, the product can be produced and distributed directly by the companies after a successful demonstration. This has a significant influence on the speed of the ramp-up.