Hydrogen seen as ideal future energy source
present its proposals tomorrow for the development of hydrogen and
fuel cells for carrying and converting clean energy.
Europe faces the challenge of fluctuating oil prices, concerns about global warming and growth in energy demand. Hydrogen could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve local air quality and enhance the security of energy supply.
Hydrogen is most often seen as a future energy source for transport, but it could also conceivably be used extensively to power factories and plants in the future, something that could interest food manufacturers. There is a great deal of legislative pressure on plant managers to cut emissions, and this technology could one day provide the answer.
"The potential for hydrogen fuel is very exciting," said Janez Potocnik, European Commissioner for Science and Research. "By bringing together all those with a stake in the future of hydrogen and fuel cell technology, with the support of the European Commission, the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform can assure the best use of resources for research, in ways that meet the needs of this growing industry."
Indeed, steps are already being made to use hydrogen to power plants. A hydrogen generation plant for major German confectionery processor Südzucker is currently being built in Offstein. Systems manufacturer Mahler IGS and industrial gas giant Messer Griesheim are carrying out the installation, which is expected to take 13 months.
The company requires hydrogen to meet the increasing demand for the production of Isomalt (Palatinit), an artificial sweetener that is extracted from pure beet sugar by means of a patented process.
Isomalt is mainly used in the production of sugar-free sweets. The plant, which is based on the process of steam reforming from natural gas, will have a capacity of 900 Nm 3 /h hydrogen.
In addition, technology group Linde is sponsoring a project at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel that is studying the ability of cyanobacteria and single-cell green algae to produce hydrogen through photosynthesis.
The researchers in Kiel have succeeded in genetically modifying these microorganisms in such a way that the amount of hydrogen released - usually too miniscule for industrial usage - is multiplied.
"The Technology Platform aims to facilitate and accelerate the development and deployment of cost-competitive, world-class hydrogen and fuel cell based energy systems in Europe," said Jeremy Bentham, chairman of the Platform. "This is an ambitious goal, for an exciting and necessary challenge. We as Technology Platform commit to play an active role in driving this challenge forward."
The Platform will adopt two documents that together will provide a vision for the sector in the medium- to long-term. The first, the Strategic Research Agenda proposes a ten-year research, development and demonstration programme designed to lead to world-class technology and global leadership.
The European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform's general assembly runs from 17 to 18 March. There will also be an exhibition showing real-life applications of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. Research into hydrogen power looks set to intensify therefore as manufacturers look for renewable, low-emission forms of power.