KU Leuven researchers achieve breakthrough in hydrogen power
Share article:
Share article:

KU Leuven researchers achieve breakthrough in hydrogen power

Professor Johan Martens with his team's energy panel in the background

A team of researchers at the University of Leuven has reported a breakthrough in the creation of green energy from hydrogen. Hydrogen energy is a sort of Holy Grail for energy researchers. As a source of energy, it is not only clean – involving no production of noxious substances or greenhouse gases – but also endlessly renewable. The problem until now has been to find a way to harness the energy available in workable volumes and at a cost that is not prohibitive.

The Leuven researchers have been working for the last ten years on a solar panel which produces energy drawn from the hydrogen contained in water vapour in the air. They are now claiming to have produced a record volume of 250 litres a day.  An average household would need 20 such panels to provide itself with electricity and heating for an entire year.

The team led by Professor Johan Martens from the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis, part of the bio-engineering faculty of KU Leuven, is now at the stage of beginning a field project. The panel looks like an ordinary solar panel, to which the team have attached a flask of water, VRT reports so that the hydrogen bubbles can be seen.

“This is, in fact, a unique combination of physics and chemistry,” Prof Martens explained to the VRT, who were allowed to see the panel in action. “In the beginning, we had a yield of 0.1%, and really had to search for the hydrogen molecules. Nowadays you can see them bubbling up to the top. That’s the result of ten years of work, constant improvement, looking for solutions. That’s how you finally achieve something that works.”

Even before the KU Leuven breakthrough, Belgium was a world player in hydrogen energy, boasting the world’s largest H2 network made of 600km of underground piping. The drawback at present, however, is that the hydrogen in question is produced by the cracking of hydrocarbon molecules derived from fossil fuels. The area around the Port of Antwerp is a European centre, from where the “grey” hydrogen is circulated and shared with industries in Belgium, France and the Netherlands.

If Prof. Martens and his team succeed in making H2 production feasible on a large scale, Belgium will be able to produce clean energy from a clean source. “If this really works, then our demand for energy will be for the most part satisfied,” commented Johan Danen of Groen.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Experts call for more widespread use of masks as figures rise
As coronavirus figures continue to rise, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has suggested that people return to wearing masks when indoors with ...
Belgium wants to recover €420 million in wrongfully paid out coronavirus aid
The Belgian State intends to recover €420 million of unduly paid Covid-19 aid, La Libre Belgique reported on Thursday. The electronic Council of ...
Why the fight for transgender rights is polarising Europe 
Year after year, Samuel De Schepper would ask Santa Claus to bring him a penis for Christmas. Born female and attending an all girl’s Catholic ...
New offshore wind farm officially opened
Despite being operational since the end of 2020, the SeaMade offshore wind farm was officially inaugurated on Wednesday by Prime Minister Alexander ...
Contact tracers have no time for calls, only texts, amid rising cases
Contract tracers will no longer make phone calls to the high-risk contacts of people who test positive for the coronavirus beginning from Wednesday, ...
Belgium holds on to top spot in FIFA rankings despite recent losses
Once again, Belgium's Red Devils have held onto their position at the top of the world football rankings, according to an update released by the ...
Proximus pushes for high-speed internet in Brussels and Wallonia
Fifteen municipalities in Wallonia should soon have access to high-speed internet through the rollout of fibre optics in the region, telecoms giant ...
Why Belgium is regulating sex work
After decades of confusing rules and hypocritical policy, Belgium is finally regulating sex work by removing prostitution from the criminal law. ...
World’s largest chocolate warehouse opens in Flanders
On Thursday, Barry Callebaut – the largest global chocolate processor and manufacturer – opened the world's largest chocolate warehouse in Lokeren, ...
Belgium in Brief: Equal Opportunity To Dance
There's a phrase where I'm from, more often said in jest nowadays, but it came to my mind this morning: "Ye dancin'?" (Are you dancing?), one ...
Farmer discovers cocaine in banana boxes bought in Brussels
A Flemish farmer who purchased boxes of bananas at the market in Brussels on Tuesday came home to discover large amounts of cocaine packed among the ...
Changes to speed cameras increase likelihood of a ticket
Changes to the way speed cameras work in Flanders and Wallonia will increase the likelihood of receiving a ticket when cars pass them above the ...