Researchers at KU Leuven have developed game-changing hydrogen panels that are garnering attention from around the world.
Fluxys recently installed several of these panels on the green roof of its Anderlecht lab with a view to joining forces with the university and conducting extensive tests for a year.
KU Leuven’s hydrogen panels were first presented to the general public in 2019. They are a highly efficient means of producing green hydrogen from sunlight and water vapour present in the air. They represent a major step forward, because green hydrogen has all it takes to play a key role in the energy transition: its production and use do not involve any CO2 emissions and it can be stored for longer periods of time. These hydrogen panels pave the way for consumers to generate their own energy to cover their heating or mobility needs or as a raw material to replace fossil fuels.
Measuring and analysing production
By testing the panels at the Fluxys site, KU Leuven is drawing on the group’s specific know-how at its lab in Anderlecht, which is a centre of expertise in Belgium when it comes to measuring gas volumes and analysing the composition of gases (gas chromatography). This is also what Fluxys is concentrating on at the test site.
“The hydrogen panels are set up facing different directions,” says Jan Rongé, a postdoctoral researcher at KU Leuven. “The measurements and analyses conducted at the Fluxys lab will highlight variations in the production profile and hydrogen composition depending on the direction of the panels, the weather conditions, the time of day and the season. We can then use these data to further hone the technology.”
Shaping the future
Fluxys’ strategy is centred around helping build a carbon-neutral energy system, with the transport of hydrogen playing a key role. “We want to advance the energy transition and gradually transport more carbon-neutral gases in our infrastructure,” says Raphaël De Winter, Head of Innovation at Fluxys. “When it comes to hydrogen, we have started the commercial process of converting part of the existing natural gas network into a complementary hydrogen network in line with the market from 2025 onwards. Our partnership with KU Leuven is an opportunity for us to share our knowledge while helping shape the future.”
The tests in the Fluxys lab are taking place under the umbrella of the Solhyd project, the name under which the KU Leuven team is continuing its research. You can learn all about the project at www.solhyd.org. Ordering hydrogen panels from the Solhyd project is still a long way off. “It is still far too early for that,” says Rongé. “Developing a good product takes time, but we are not standing still. We are now also receiving support from the Flemish Government through the Moonshot programme, which gives us the resources for upscaling. There are now 10 of us working on this project and we would like to share our progress with the whole world.”