A major breakthrough in splitting seawater into oxygen and hydrogen to generate Hydrogen fuel marks an important milestone in the race to replace fossil fuels. For decades scientists have struggled to find a way to electrolyse sea water without the purification process and chemical additives to generate renewable energy. Now there is a breakthrough that promises to address the ever-growing demand for hydrogen fuel that stood at 94 million metric tons in 2021 and is expected to hit 680 million MT by 2050.

Ocean Water for Hydrogen Fuel

By introducing an acid layer over catalysts, Scientists from Tianjin University and Nankai University China were able to generate hydrogen fuel using ocean water. Current technologies can only generate hydrogen fuel by splitting high-purity water, especially fresh water.

Poor quality water from the Ocean has always been a big challenge to electrolyse to generate hydrogen fuel as it tends to poison noble catalysts used in electrolysis. Moreover, splitting the water into hydrogen and oxygen has also proved challenging, given the high levels of harmful chlorine ions.

With the new breakthrough, scientists have found a way of using the earth’s largest reservoir to generate hydrogen fuel which is expected to revolutionize and accelerate the renewable energy push. The breakthrough also averts the need to use fresh water, which is limited, leading to water shortages for basic functions.

While the new method has potential applications in other types of water, such as tap water and natural fresh water, its application in seawater is of great importance. Ocean water accounts for 97% of the earth’s water. Its abundance means it will greatly help the race to generate clean energy amid the transition from fossil fuels and combating carbon emissions.

Hydrogen Fuel Growing Market

The new technology could revolutionize the hydrogen production market, valued at $130 billion between 2020 and 2021. While it was estimated to grow by up to 9.2% annually through 2030, this could change with the use of ocean water and the ever-growing demand for clean, renewable energy.

Hydrogen fuel production is expected to be a big industry with the new technology that leverages ocean water. The technology is expected to replace the current hydrogen production systems that are fossil fuel-based. Additionally, Hydrogen fuel demand is likely to explode given its potential use in multiple sectors, including manufacturing and power generation. It will also go into steelmaking and cement production, given the abundance of seawater.

In addition to the breakthrough technology, dwindling costs of electrolysis and increased efficiency due to technology improvements affirms why hydrogen fuel would be the future of renewable energy. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that as the cost of production drops, green hydrogen fuel could be produced at between $0.70 and $1.60 per kg. The price would be more than competitive to take on natural gas.

There is a growing push to replace natural gas as a primary energy source, as it accounts for more than 30% of energy-related CO2 emissions in the US alone. Once hydrogen fuel production increases significantly, parity with fossil fuels could be achieved as early as 2025.