Solhyd: A solar panel that produces hydrogen from air and light

Solhyd panel hydrogen
Solhyd: A solar panel that produces hydrogen from air and light

Developed by researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium, the technology is now being run by a start-up called Solhyd. The company has already raised €2 million in seed capital from four Flemish investors and the university’s Gemma Frisius seed capital fund.

The consortium is also committed to providing up to a total of six million euros, depending on needs and results. Quite a start, especially given that investors have come forward from all over the world. Compatible with most solar panels, the hydrogen panel from the University of Leuven produces hydrogen as long as it is outdoors: up to 250 litres a day and with a 15% efficiency. Around twenty panels would be enough to provide energy and heating for a house during winter, provided it is well insulated and has a heat pump. By covering a 1000 m2 roof, it would be possible to produce 2 to 4 tonnes of hydrogen per year.

The fruit of 10 years of research

It all began with the discovery of two researchers, Jan Rongé and Tom Bosserez, under the supervision of Professor Johan Martens from the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis. Jan Rongé explained: “We developed a unique patented technology that using sunlight, splits the water vapor present in the air into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas through a membrane.” In fact, Solhyd uses a conventional solar panel. But there are cylinders inside that use materials that capture moisture from the air, then separate it into hydrogen and oxygen. The advantage is that renewable hydrogen is produced without going through the electricity grid and nor using critical metals. This panel is therefore a complement to electrolysers, which require large quantities of green electricity, rare metals and water.

That is the reason why they call it golden hydrogen.

According to the researchers, the technology works, even in Belgium. It could therefore be deployed anywhere in the world. Solhyd is considering a wide range of applications, including mobility. Based near Leuven, the start-up has invested in a 350 m2 warehouse to install a pilot line. However, the company is looking further ahead and plans to produce on a megawatt scale from 2026.

Do you want to learn more about Belgium? Then our latest articles on the country should interest you. You can access all of our Belgium-related articles here

Article written by Laurent Meillaud and translated by Mariem Ben Tili

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About the author

Laurent Meillaud

Laurent Meillaud

Freelance automotive journalist and consultant, author as well, focused on technologies and new trends for more than 30 years, convinced that hydrogen is one of the energies for the future.

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