“If we want the energy transition to sustainable renewable energy to be successful, green hydrogen is crucial”, says Prof. Bart Vermang, researcher at imo-imomec and EnergyVille. “This is because the current electricity supply is not sufficient in industries where a lot of energy is needed, such as the chemical sector.” For years, the research collaboration EnergyVille has therefore focused on producing green hydrogen using solar energy. In this process, they use solar cells to split water into hydrogen as an energy carrier. With that energy, industry can get to work and carry out many more processes than are possible with electricity. “A lot of progress has already been made in the production and storage of green hydrogen, but there is still a lot of work to be done to start using green hydrogen on a large scale,” says Prof Bart Vermang.
For this purpose, Professor Vermang’s research group is now signing a cooperation agreement with the Australian university UNSW during the Belgian economic mission in Australia. This university in New South Wales is known worldwide for research into renewable energy and especially solar energy. This year, they received more than 29 million euro’s research funding from the Australian Government for renewable energy projects and very recently they also received the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering worth 500,000£. “We are already collaborating with this research group in several projects, but with this cooperation agreement, we are going one step further and will conduct even more intensive research together to take steps forward within the field of renewable energy,” says Bart Vermang.
Reduce CO2 emissions
Besides green hydrogen, the Belgian and Australian research groups will also focus on capturing CO2 emissions in industry, to convert them via hydrogen to other fuels such as methanol or ammonia, which can then be reused on site in industry. “Applications based around this will be able to play a big role in reducing CO2 emissions. Especially when you see that for industry the energy transition is the least clear, unlike in the construction or transport sector, for example. Within industry there is a great need for innovations to make the turnaround, to this end pilot projects are already starting up in Flanders, but we are still only at the beginning of that process,” says Bart Vermang.
At the same time, there is also a role for education within the cooperation agreement. There will be exchanges of students, PhD researchers and teachers between Hasselt University and UNSW. “The cooperation is therefore a great added value within the yet-to-be-established English-language Master’s in Science Engineering Technology that UHasselt plans to launch next academic year,” concludes Bart Vermang.