Climate-neutral energy and raw material innovation from the Montanuniversität Leoben

The university for mining, metallurgy and materials at Leoben is currently developing pioneering technologies, in collaboration with renowned industrial partners, that will enable CO2 neutral extraction of carbon and hydrogen from a single source.

Through the application of a variety of pyrolysis processes, methane (natural gas) as a raw material is broken down into carbon and hydrogen without emissions. As a result, it is possible to obtain hydrogen, as a storable and climate-neutral energy carrier, and the key and currently scarce raw material carbon, both at the same time. “This advanced technology achieves the combined objectives of decarbonisation and energy transformation, from and to different sources, while at the same time producing a vital raw material”, explained Univ.-Prof. Dr. Peter Moser, the Vice-Rector of the Montanuniversität Leoben, who coordinates and drives the project within the remit of the Resources Innovation Center Leoben. “The high-quality carbon obtained from pyrolysis has the potential to enable and revolutionise a wide range of sustainable technologies.”


“The need for clean and affordable energy for electricity, heating and mobility is undeniable in Austria and these advanced technologies can, therefore, be of massive benefit. As a central element in the energy of the future, we are providing not just the opportunity for energy storage, to enable the harvesting of energy in summer and storage for winter, but also the advanced material carbon as well as affordable hydrogen from pyrolysis and thus environmentally friendly fuels such as LNG for clean heavy goods traffic,” adds DI Markus Mitteregger, CEO of RAG Austria AG.


Carbon is recognised as an extremely valuable industrial raw material for the sustainable production of building structures, batteries, computer chips and carbon fibres, as well as for the production of carbon-based structures and materials that are used in a wide range of industry sectors, such as in medical technology, aerospace, sports and leisure, and other high-tech industries. One example, which has significantly increased in importance in recent years, is the modification of carbon into the two-dimensional advanced material graphene. Graphene is ultra-thin, light, stable and conductive, with potentially endless uses. In addition, carbon is used in fuel cells as well as for hydrogen storage, and it is frequently used as a key substance in water, soil and air treatment.


Like the carbon, the hydrogen that is produced in parallel offers opportunities for versatile, climate-neutral application in many different sectors, including as a key energy source for achieving climate targets. In addition, hydrogen can be stored seasonally in large quantities in existing storage facilities, and transported in an environmentally friendly manner in existing gas pipelines, to match customer requirements, thus underpinning security of energy supply.

The production of the valuable and scarce raw material carbon in combination with the flexible energy carrier hydrogen follows the Sustainable Energy Mining approach. This advanced technology will make a significant contribution to the energy transition in Austria and at the same time lead to an innovation boost for Austrian industry, strengthen regional added value and ensure security of supply. Carbon and Hydrogen Made In Austria is therefore the focus of the collaboration partners.


Peter Moser
Montanuniversität Leoben