On March 17th, the High-tech Research and Development Center (Basic Research Management Center) of the Ministry of Science and Technology released the top ten major scientific developments of China in 2022. Top ten major scientific developments, including Zhu Rong Patrol Radar Reveals Shallow Stratum Structure of Utopia Plain in the Planet Mars, stood out from 30 candidate advances. Among them, the team achievement of Academician Xie Heping in Shenzhen University, “New Principle in Realizing Hydrogen Production by Direct Electrolysis of Seawater”, was selected.
“New Principle in Realizing Hydrogen Production by Direct Electrolysis of Seawater”wastheteamworkachievement of Academician Xie HepinginShenzhen University/Sichuan University. By combining molecular diffusion, interfacial phase equilibrium and other physical and mechanical processes with electrochemical reaction, Xie Heping’steamworkpioneered a new principle and technology of in-situ direct electrolysis of seawater to produce hydrogen.A theoretical method for hydrogen production by direct electrolysis of seawater with phase transformation, self-migration, and self-driven at the gas-liquid interface has been established,the mechanical driving mechanism for the spontaneous phase transformation and mass transfer of seawater under interfacial pressure difference has been formed,and the dynamic self-regulationand stable direct electrolysis of seawater to produce hydrogen with electrochemical reaction and seawater migration without additional energy consumptionhas beenrealized.
Theindependentlydeveloped 386 L/h H2principleprototype has been producing hydrogen stably in real seawater for more than 3,200 hours, with Faraday efficiency of nearly 100% and electrolysis energy consumption of about 5.0 kWh/Nm3H2.Whileisolatingseawater ions, it hasachieved a breakthrough in high-efficiency seawater in-situ direct electrolysis hydrogen production without desalination process, side effects and additional energy consumption.It has laida foundation for solving the technical problems that have long plagued scientific and industrial circles in this field.
Due to the shortage offreshwaterresources, it is an important direction of hydrogen energy development in the future torequestfor water from the sea. However, the complex compositionofseawater (about 92 chemical elements) leadstovariousdifficulties and challenges in hydrogen production from seawater. The process of desalinationbeforehydrogen production is complex and costly.This research is the first time to establish a new principle and technology for hydrogen production by direct electrolysis of seawater without desalination driven by phase transformation migration from a new perspective of combining physical mechanics and electrochemistry.Anda newapproachhas beenfound to completely isolate seawater ions and achieve a breakthrough in high-efficiency seawater in-situ direct electrolysis for hydrogen production without desalination process, side effects and additional energy consumption (that is, seawater is used as pure water and directly electrolyzed in seawater for hydrogen production).Ithas solved the problemofhalf a centuryfordirect electrolysisofseawaterto produce hydrogen andis expected to form China’s original global emerging strategic industryof“marine green hydrogen”.
This achievement of Xie Heping’s teamworkwas published inNatureon November 30th, 2022, with Shenzhen University as the first unit. The review experts ofNaturecommented on this achievement:“Few papershave been able toconvincingly achieve large-scale and stable hydrogen production from seawater, but the work of this paper hasprecisely achievedthis. They have perfectly solved the problem of harmful corrosiveness, which has long plagued the field of hydrogen production from seawater. It willopen the door to low-cost fuelproduction andis expected topromotechange towardsa more sustainable world!”
In January this year,theachievement was selected asone ofthe“Top TenMajorScientificDevelopmentNews of China in 2022”byAcademicians ofChineseAcademy of Sciences(CAS)andChineseAcademy of Engineering(CAE).In addition,it was alsoselected asone ofthe top tenmajorinnovation focuses of Innovation Focus 2022 underCell.
In December 2022, the team of Academician Xie Heping signed a cooperation agreement with Dongfang Electric Corporation (DEC) and Dongfang Electric (Fujian) Innovation Research Institute Co., Ltd. on the ‘Pilot Test and Industrial Popularization and Application of the Original Technology of Hydrogen Production by in-situ Direct Electrolysis of Seawater without Desalination’. At that time, Academician Xie Heping stated that he would work together to create a new era of global hydrogen production from seawater through the “three-step strategy”: The first step is to jointly promote the demonstration and verification of offshore pilot test and establish a benchmark in the field of direct hydrogen production from offshore renewable energy. The second step is to fully tackle the second-generation core technology of direct hydrogen production from seawater in-situ without desalination, iteratively develop, optimize and upgrade the core technology and equipment, always maintain the technological leading edge of direct hydrogen production from seawater, and lead a new mode of hydrogen production from non-pure water electrolysis. The third step is to cooperate with DEC through win-win cooperation with global enterprises to jointly promote industrialization, and lead a brand new industrial mode integrating renewable energy such as offshore wind power with direct electrolysis of seawater for hydrogen production.