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Solhyd | solhyd.org

© Solhyd | solhyd.org

Hydrogen-producing rooftop solar panels nearing commercialization

KU Leuven researchers have developed rooftop panels that capture both solar power and water from the air. Like traditional PV modules, hydrogen panels are also connected, but via gas tubes instead of electric cables. The researchers are now preparing to bring the tech to the mass market via a spinoff company.

KU Leuven researchers in Belgium have created a hydrogen panel that directly converts water vapor from the air into hydrogen gas, with the help of sunlight. They claim it produces 250 liters of hydrogen per day, at an efficiency of 15%. They are developing it under the Solhyd project, which is now in a transition phase from research to spinoff.

In a nutshell, hydrogen panels are modules that use solar energy to split water molecules and produce hydrogen gas. This means only the most arid places on Earth are too dry for hydrogen panels to work efficiently. They are akin to classical solar modules, but instead of an electric cable, they are connected via gas tubes.

Specifically, electricity is produced by the top layer solar panel, with a system of tubes underneath, where the hydrogen is produced from water molecules extracted directly from the air using a membrane.

© Comate |
© Comate | The researchers have been fine-tuning the technology for over a decade. The hand-built prototypes were then cast into an attractive industrial design by Comate Engineering & Design.

“Solhyd hydrogen panels are compatible with most commercial modern PV modules, which are directly plugged into our system. This way, we can benefit from the ongoing developments and cost reductions in the PV industry,” KU Leuven researcher Jan Rongé told pv magazine. “To further enhance this synergy, Solhyd hydrogen panels are compatible with common PV mounting structures.”

The researchers described the hydrogen panel as small-scale, modular, and ideal for decentralized production. They estimated that 20 of the panels could supply electricity and heat for a well-insulated house with a heat pump all winter long. When installed alongside a solar thermal collector and traditional solar panels, hydrogen panels could help heat homes and provide electricity throughout the year.

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The report was written by the editorial staff of “pv-magazine” (Marija Maisch) 2022 – the article may not be redistributed without permission!

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