Engineering & Simulation Consultants

Current Applications of Hydrogen

Hydrogen has a wide range of applications beyond its use as a fuel. Some of the key applications include:

Chemical Industry: hydrogen is a critical component in the Haber-Bosch process for synthesising ammonia, which is a precursor for fertilisers. It is also used in the production of methanol, which serves as a feedstock for various chemicals and as a fuel.

Petroleum Refining: hydrogen is used to break down large hydrocarbons into smaller, more valuable products like gasoline and diesel. It is also employed to remove sulphur from petroleum products, reducing sulphur dioxide emissions when fuels are burned.

Metal Industry: reduction Agent: Used in the reduction of metal ores to produce pure metals, particularly in the production of steel and aluminium.

Electronics: semiconductor Manufacturing: Hydrogen is used as a reducing agent and in the cleaning of silicon wafers.

Food Industry: hydrogen is used to hydrogenate fats and oils, converting unsaturated fats to saturated fats to produce margarine and shortening.

Glass Production: hydrogen is used to create a reducing atmosphere, which prevents oxidation during the production of flat glass and other speciality glasses.

Energy Storage: hydrogen can be stored and used for energy purposes, providing a means to store and transport energy, particularly from renewable sources.

Fuel Cells: hydrogen is used in fuel cells to generate electricity, offering a clean and efficient power source for various applications, including portable power, stationary power, and transportation.

Space Exploration: hydrogen is used as a propellant in rocket engines, combined with oxygen to produce a high-energy output for space launches.

Hydrogenation of Coal: hydrogen is used to convert coal into synthetic natural gas or liquid fuels.

Enhancing the efficiency of photocatalysis technology involves optimising the setup of the photoreactor system. Variables that can be studied include:

Optimising Reactor Design: Enhancing reactor design significantly improves the reaction rate and overall efficiency. In 1997, Dr Jimmy Lea conducted a Master of Engineering research project on the photocatalytic splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen, which laid the groundwork for understanding the variables that affected photoreactor efficiency. In his research, he used commercial titanium dioxide (TiO₂) and light with photon wavelengths in the range of 254-310 nm. His experimental work, which focused on reactor engineering, identified four critical factors affecting the reaction rate and reactor efficiency, among other variables. The four variables were:

  • Reactor Geometry: He discovered that the design and geometry of the reactor had a significant effect on the reaction rate. Designs that maximised light penetration increased the reaction rate. In addition, reactors with effective mixing and mass transfer prevented the formation of dead zones and kept the TiO₂ continually suspended, ensuring that TiO₂ particles were evenly distributed. This maximised contact time between the photocatalyst surface, light and water, thereby further increasing the reaction rate.

  • Catalyst Loading: TiO₂ served to generate electron-hole pairs that drove the reaction. Increasing photocatalyst loading elevated the number of electron-hole pairs, thereby boosting the reaction rate. However, he discovered an optimal catalyst loading beyond which the reaction rate declined rapidly. This decrease was attributed to particle light-shielding, which resulted in poor light-harvesting efficiency.

  • Light Intensity: The reaction rate was directly proportional to the applied UV intensity. Increasing UV intensity meant more photons struck the TiO₂ surface within a given timeframe, generating electron-hole pairs more rapidly. Using lenses or mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto the photocatalyst enhanced effective solar irradiance.

  • Water Temperature: The reaction rate was directly proportional to water temperature. Higher temperatures provided reacting particles with more energy, increasing their movement and accelerating the reaction rate. He attributed this phenomenon to the enhanced kinetic energy of particles at elevated temperatures.

Increase Photocatalyst Efficiency: Develop or adopt more efficient photocatalysts than original TiO₂. Materials with higher solar-to-hydrogen efficiencies can generate more hydrogen from the same amount of sunlight. Doping TiO₂ with elements such as nitrogen, carbon or transition metals can enhance its photocatalytic activity by improving light absorption and charge carrier separation. In addition, increasing the surface area of the photocatalyst exposed to sunlight, potentially through nanostructuring or using porous materials, can provide more active sites for the reaction.

Enhance Light Absorption: Employ advanced photonic designs that enhance light absorption and reduce energy losses, such as photonic crystals or plasmonic structures. Integrate light-trapping features that increase the time light spends within the catalytic material, thus improving absorption and reaction rates.

Balance of Plant: Optimise the balance of plant performance by designing an efficient system from the outset through effective process engineering, assisted by process dynamics simulation. On the other hand, the reactor geometry can be optimised using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). This approach improves overall solar-to-hydrogen (STH) plant efficiency.

Photocatalysis Technology

Photocatalysis technology for hydrogen production involves using light energy to drive a chemical reaction that splits water (H₂O) into hydrogen (H₂) and oxygen (O₂). The key components and steps involved in this process are:

Photocatalyst Material: A semiconductor material, such as titanium dioxide (TiO₂), is used as the photocatalyst. This material has the ability to absorb light energy and generate electron-hole pairs.

Light Absorption: When the photocatalyst is exposed to light, typically ultraviolet (UV) light with wavelength between 282-400nm, it absorbs photons. This absorption excites electrons from the valence band to the conduction band, leaving behind positively charged holes in the valence band.

Charge Separation: The excited electrons and holes must be effectively separated to prevent their recombination. The photocatalyst material's structure and surface properties are crucial for efficient charge separation.

Redox Reactions: The separated electrons and holes participate in redox reactions. The electrons reduce water molecules at the surface of the photocatalyst to produce hydrogen gas whilst the holes oxidise water molecules to produce oxygen gas.

Hydrogen and Oxygen Evolution: The hydrogen and oxygen gases produced in the redox reactions are collected separately. This can be facilitated by designing the photocatalytic system with appropriate compartments or membranes to prevent mixing.

Potential Applications of Hydrogen

Hydrogen gas has several potential applications for domestic consumers such as:

Residential Heating: Hydrogen can be used in place of natural gas for home heating. Hydrogen boilers and fuel cells can provide heat for space and water heating

Hydrogen-Based Air Conditioning Systems: Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells to power air conditioning systems, providing an efficient and environmentally friendly way to cool homes.

Cooking: Hydrogen gas can be used as a fuel for cooking, similar to natural gas. Hydrogen has a high energy content per unit mass (about 120 MJ/kg), which means it can produce a significant amount of heat when burned. The primary combustion product of hydrogen is water vapour, making it a clean fuel with no carbon dioxide emissions, which is beneficial for reducing greenhouse gases and mitigating climate change.​

Power Generation: Hydrogen fuel cells can be used to generate electricity for homes. These fuel cells can provide a reliable and clean source of power, either as the primary energy source or as backup power.

Portable Power: Hydrogen can be used in portable fuel cells to power devices such as laptops, mobile phones and other small electronics. These fuel cells offer longer operational times compared to traditional batteries.

Hydrogen Vehicles: Hydrogen can be used as a fuel for domestic vehicles. Hydrogen-powered cars, also known as fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), emit only water vapour and can be refuelled quickly, offering a clean alternative to petrol and diesel cars.

Backup Power Systems: Hydrogen fuel cells can provide backup power for homes during outages. These systems can be integrated with renewable energy sources like solar panels to ensure continuous power supply.

Hydrogen Blending: Hydrogen can be blended with natural gas and used in existing natural gas networks. This approach can reduce carbon emissions from domestic gas consumption while utilising existing infrastructure.

Hydrogen-Powered Appliances: Development of hydrogen-powered domestic appliances, such as refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers, can further integrate hydrogen into daily household activities, enhancing energy efficiency and reducing reliance on traditional electricity sources.

Decentralised Energy Systems: Hydrogen can enable decentralised energy systems, where individual households or communities produce their own hydrogen through electrolysis using renewable energy sources. This can enhance energy security and independence.

Residential Hydrogen Refuelling Stations: As hydrogen vehicles become more common, residential hydrogen refuelling stations can be installed at homes, allowing consumers to refuel their hydrogen-powered cars conveniently.

Hydrogen for Home Gardening: Hydrogen can be used in certain types of gardening equipment, such as hydrogen-powered lawn mowers and garden tools, reducing the carbon footprint of maintaining outdoor spaces.

Hydrogen Plant Design

​​​We provide green hydrogen plant design for the production hydrogen as fuel. Our professional services cater to clients in Singapore, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, ensuring a broad geographical reach and localised expertise. Our in-house plant design capabilities, coupled with the skills of our experienced process engineers and the use of advanced engineering simulation, enable us to deliver hydrogen energy plant that meets the highest standards of safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. By leveraging cutting-edge technology and industry best practices, we ensure that our solutions are not only environmentally friendly but also economically viable. Our comprehensive approach covers every aspect of green hydrogen plant design, from initial feasibility studies and front-end engineering design (FEED) to detailed engineering design. This holistic service ensures that our clients receive a fully integrated solution tailored to their specific needs, delivering exceptional value and performance in the rapidly evolving green hydrogen market.