Israeli start-up presents first hydrogen powder generator
Electriq Global developed a generator that runs on hydrogen in powder form. The Israeli start-up wants to make using green hydrogen as easy as making coffee. On Friday, the device was used commercially for the first time.
SABINE SLUIJTERS September 09, 2022, 15:26
The huge yellow crane of RKB Ridderkerk looks just like other cranes. But looks are deceiving. Because the enormous device runs on a special form of hydrogen: powder.
“It works just like a generator,” says Baruch Halpert. CEO of Electriq Global. “But instead of diesel, we put powder and water in it.” The powder is pressed into small pellets that resemble large round mints with a hole in them. “They go into the generator just like the soap cubes for your dishwasher.” The Israeli entrepreneur regularly uses comparisons with household appliances to emphasize the simplicity of the application of the powder. His mission is to make using hydrogen as easy as making coffee.
“With our technology you can make hydrogen like you make Nespresso. You take a capsule, mix it with water, apply a catalyst and you get hydrogen.” The company will reuse the residual product that remains and is called KBO2 to make new hydrogen powder.
“We make hydrogen usable for everyone” Baruch Halpert
Electriq Global is still purchasing the hydrogen powder, but is working with tank storage company Zenith on the development of its own factory in the port of Amsterdam. There it wants to make hydrogen powder from green hydrogen as of 2025. The technology that Electriq Global uses for this is not new. It builds on years of studies and pilot projects by scientists and companies. “But we managed to make it work,” says Halpert.
Energy Density Hydrogen Powder
The secret lies in the substance that is used to make powder from hydrogen. Electriq Global uses potassium for this, whereas previous tests mainly opted for sodium. Although potassium has a lower energy density than these alternatives, it is easier to use. Moreover, it is not scarce and can be found in many places in the world.
It took Electriq Global four years and twenty million euros to get it done, says Halpert. “It wasn't easy. We have invested tens of millions in the development and many millions have been lost in the process. We had to make a lot of mistakes to get here.”
The entrepreneur is convinced that hydrogen in powder form is the missing link in the hydrogen economy. “If we want to make hydrogen the energy carrier of the future, we will have to make it suitable for multiple applications. Just like we did with oil.”
Hydrogen is an energy carrier that, if produced with green electricity, can serve as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. The most obvious applications are in industry, heavy transport such as shipping and trucks and as raw material in chemistry. No CO2 is released when hydrogen is used. The only residual products are pure water and oxygen.
In particular, hydrogen powder makes the transportation of hydrogen easier. “We can supply it in powder form, but also pressed in somewhat larger blocks,” says Halpert. The advantage is that it is very easy to transport as bulk or in bags. Presently, the transport of hydrogen is expensive and complicated. To transport hydrogen, it must first be liquefied or packaged in ammonia (NH3), methanol or another form and special ships and tankers are needed to transport this. The powder can be stored for a longer period of time at normal temperatures.
“If we want to make hydrogen the energy carrier of the future, we will have to make it suitable for multiple applications.” Baruch Halpert
Application of hydrogen powder
The hydrogen that comes out of the powder is very pure and can therefore be used directly. It is not yet clear where the powder will mainly be used. “We see a lot of interest in the generators that are not too large, such as this crane,” says Halpert. "Companies are looking for solutions for locations where no electricity is available, for example due to grid congestion." The sustainable generators can also offer a solution for nitrogen restrictions in the construction industry. Halpert believes that the powder generators can also be used as back-up installations for hospitals. or data centers.
It's not the solution for everything, Halpert says. Also, making powder is currently more expensive than liquefying it. That's because the compression or liquefaction of hydrogen are well-known technologies. But despite the higher price, the powder generator can compete well with other energy supplies such as a battery. “The energy density of a powder generator is six times greater than that of a lithium battery,” says Halpert. “That's a big advantage. We also do not have to replace the entire device. We just top up the powder and you can continue.”