The production of green hydrogen through water electrolysis, powered by solar energy, offers a promising solution for reducing global carbon emissions and addressing the challenges of intermittent solar resources. By serving as a versatile energy carrier, green hydrogen can mitigate the limitations of solar energy fluctuations. However, the conventional process demands significant electricity and water resources, potentially restricting its feasibility in arid climates. Recent research emphasizes the potential of harnessing sunlight and wastewater for renewable hydrogen production, thus minimizing water consumption and environmental impact [1,4]. This innovative project aims to develop a comprehensive system for wastewater treatment and green hydrogen generation, addressing the following key tasks:

(a) Identification of Suitable Wastewater Sources: Different types of wastewater, such as mining effluents, natural water, and seawater, will be analyzed to understand their compositions and suitability for the project;

(b) Solar-Driven Wastewater Treatment: An efficient solar-driven water treatment process will be designed to preprocess selected wastewaters. This will include tasks such as concentrating brine and producing pre-conditioned biomass and deionized water to facilitate subsequent electrolysis;

(c) Renewable Hydrogen Production: Utilizing solar-driven flow electrolysis, either through a commercial cell or a customized prototype, the pre-conditioned wastewater will be used to produce renewable hydrogen.

School

Chemical Engineering

Research Area

Renewable energy | Solar fuel conversion | Nanomaterials | Biomass conversion

The work will contribute to a project funded by the Trailblazer University Program and will be undertaken at the Particles and Catalysis Research Group in the School of Chemical Engineering.

The student will work with the supervisory team: A/Prof Jason Scott, Dr Qiyuan Li and Dr Lixue Jiang.

Expected outcomes from this project include:
  • Re-build a solar driven membrane distillation system (please refer to [2]) to produce deionized water from a synthetic wastewater (such as desalination brine). Then evaluate the performance of an established PV driven commercial electrolyzer system by using the produced deionized water.
  • Develop a multi-stage process for producing clean water and value-added minerals from inorganic wastewater (e.g., selectively remove ions), assembling a flow electrolysis cell and a PV solar system to produce renewable hydrogen.
  • Develop an organic wastewater pre-treatment system (e.g., to digest, or recover, concentrate) and using the pre-conditioned organic biomass molecules to produce renewable hydrogen and value-added chemicals using an in-house prototype electrolyzer.
  • Li, Q., Jiang, L., Huang, G., Wang, D.-W., Shepherd, J., Daiyan, R., Markides, C.N., Taylor, R.A. and Scott, J. 2023. A ternary system exploiting the full solar spectrum to generate renewable hydrogen from a waste biomass feedstock. Energy & Environmental Science.
  • Li, Q., Charlton, A.J., Omar, A., Dang, B., Le-Clech, P., Scott, J. and Taylor, R.A. 2022. A novel concentrated solar membrane-distillation for water purification in a building integrated design. Desalination 535, 115828.
  • Li, Q., Zhuo, Y., Shanks, K., Taylor, R.A., Conneely, B., Tan, A., Shen, Y. and Scott, J. 2021. A winged solar biomass reactor for producing 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (5-HMF). Solar Energy 218, 455-468.
  • L. Jiang, J. Pan, Q. Li, H. Chen, S. Zhou, Z. Yu, S. Jiang, H. Yin, J. Guan, R. A. Taylor, R. Fisher, G. Leslie, J. Scott, H. Zhao and D.-W. Wang, A holistic green system coupling hydrogen production with wastewater valorisation, EcoMat, 2022, e12254.
  • https://www.pcrg.unsw.edu.au/hydrogen-value-chain-solar-reforming-of-waste-organics-for-clean-hydrogen-production