Green Tech Valley is The Hydrogen Hotspot
The Hydrogen Research Map Austria sets out the national technological advantage in hydrogen research. H2 is considered to be one of the energy sources of the future. However, there are still a number of unresolved questions. Companies in the Green Tech Valley are working on the answers and some innovative solutions.
19 institutes and 313 research workers are concentrated in one location: When it comes to researching hydrogen as an energy source, Austria is clearly in the top European league.
The hotspots for national hydrogen research are located in Graz with the Technical University, the Hydrogen Center Austria, the Large Engine Competence Center, the Bioenergy and Sustainable Technologies Competence Centre and the Austrian Institute of Technology. Further national centres are located at the Montanuniversität Leoben and TU Wien. Together, these research beacons, which provide an umbrella for other university/ non-university R&D hothouses, form the cornerstones of the Hydrogen Research Map Austria.
The map indicates, at a glance, the level and concentration of expertise in the country. The main areas of research centre on the issues of production, storage and distribution of green hydrogen, as well as its use in industry and commerce, mobility and the energy sector. “Our aim was to very clearly set out the research competence in Austria. It is noticeable that most of the human resources are concentrated in Styria, around the TU Graz campus,” says Bernhard Puttinger, Managing Director of the Green Tech Cluster.
The Green Tech Cluster has also evaluated the specific market opportunities that are likely to be open to solution providers in the sector in the future: “The research today will become the industry of tomorrow. The market is developing exponentially: now is the time to be part of it,” notes Puttinger.
There is huge potential in respect of green hydrogen as an electricity storage medium. With the aid of this energy source, excess electricity can be stored long-term and used at peak times. Hydrogen is therefore able to stabilise the power grid without polluting the environment.
Because grey hydrogen needs to be replaced soon, in the future there will also be increased demand for green hydrogen from industry and commerce, for example for the production of ammonia and in the petrochemical sector. Demand also comes from the semiconductor industry, as hy-drogen plays a central role here as a key element in the process chain.
However, there is still a lot to do. At present, 95 percent of the hydrogen used worldwide still comes from fossil energy sources, primarily natural gas. It is increasingly important to replace this grey hydrogen with green hydrogen from renewable sources such as solar power or biomass. H2 as a climate-friendly energy carrier can be generated electrolytically, for example. This is possible, free from emissions, at efficiency levels of some 60 to 80 %.
At the moment, the production of green hydrogen is still very expensive. It currently costs two to three times as much as the production of grey hydrogen. The storage of the colourless and odourless gas also has its pitfalls. Hydrogen compressed in gaseous form must be stored under high pressure in resilient containers; liquid cryogenic hydrogen requires temperatures below −252.85 °C for transport.
In order to be able to master these challenges in the best possible way, the companies and research institutions in the Green Tech Valley are already working flat out researching advanced solutions. The Graz startup Rouge H2 Engineering, for example, is working on containers for mobile hydrogen production. The plant developer VTU Engineering is focusing on hydrogen as an energy storage device. And the Hydrogen Center Austria is the only non-university research facility in Austria that specialises in hydrogen technologies such as electrolysis, hydrogen storage, fuel cells, refuelling, measurement and safety systems.
One thing is clear: The use of green hydrogen is a building block on the path towards the energy transition.
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