Nirala Singh, an assistant professor in the U-M Department of Chemical Engineering, has received funding to help improve the efficiency of producing hydrogen fuel through solar power. The research is part of a sponsored agreement between SunHydrogen, Inc. and the University of Michigan.
“Producing renewable fuels such as hydrogen is an area I have been interested in since I was an undergraduate at Michigan and continued in my time at UC-Santa Barbara,” said Singh. “It is very exciting to see people interested in doing this on a large scale, and this will allow us to take a step in manufacturing devices to produce solar hydrogen by working with our industrial partner and other collaborators.”
SunHydrogen is scaling up the manufacturing of their devices which use solar energy to directly produce hydrogen and oxygen from water.
This research will identify the ideal configuration of these systems to maximize solar-to-hydrogen efficiency, develop new catalysts to reduce the complexity of the manufacturing steps by lowering the energy required to make hydrogen from water, and incorporate membranes with these catalysts to ensure high energy efficiency.
“Hydrogen is a very important fuel and chemical that, if produced through solar energy, can have a large impact on mitigating the effects of anthropogenic climate change by decreasing carbon dioxide emissions,” said Singh.
While hydrogen fuel is typically obtained through reforming natural gas, SunHydrogen aims to use environmentally conscious and renewable methods to obtain the same energy. With oxygen as the only byproduct of their hydrogen production, their process results in a cleaner source of energy than fossil fuels, which release contaminants such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
To help maximize the impact of future research spending, the team will also conduct a robust economic analysis to determine the cost of producing hydrogen using this process.
In addition to SunHydrogen, Singh’s team will collaborate with Professor Syed Mubeen from the University of Iowa.
Nirala Singh joined the Department of Chemical Engineering in 2018. His research focusses on problems related to energy storage, renewable fuels and waste remediation including improving the electrochemical processes necessary to effectively use renewable energy.