Belgian researchers produce hydrogen using solar panels

A team from the KU Leuven have made a promising technological breakthrough. They have designed a solar panel that produces hydrogen and oxygen directly from the air and sun.

After working on it for 10 years, a team of researchers from the KU Leuven, led by Professor Johan Martens, has designed a photovoltaic panel which, in addition to electricity, produces impressive yields of oxygen and hydrogen. “Since announcing the news, I’ve been getting enquiries from all over the place,” laughs Johan Martens. Industry, universities, potential partners, etc.”

The process consists of capturing the water contained in the air via the panels. Then, by a chemical process, the water is converted into oxygen and hydrogen. “With a panel measuring one square metre, we can produce an average of 250 litres of hydrogen per day in Belgium,” explains Johan Martens. At this level of production, it is already almost profitable. In Spain, we could get it up to 350 litres a day.”

According to Professor Martens, this new panel design could be used at the neighbourhood, building or community level. “It would be too expensive, not to mention too dangerous, to install a fuel cell and hydrogen tank in every home”, he explains. Like natural gas, hydrogen must be stored safely. So the idea is to provide a shared fuel tank and fuel cell for an entire community. Everything is well protected to avoid accidents.