KU Leuven is aiming for green hydrogen panels for our roofs


The energy debate increasingly revolves around hydrogen. If it is green, i.e. obtained with clean electricity, no greenhouse gases or other toxins are released. The KU Leuven hopes to be producing green hydrogen panels on an industrial scale and putting them on our roofs by 2030.

A brief lesson in chemistry. Water (H₂O) is found in immense quantities on Earth. It consists of two hydrogen atoms (H) and one oxygen atom (O). In nature, such a hydrogen atom almost always binds to other atoms, such as oxygen. It comes down to isolating those hydrogen atoms. This is worth the effort, because the invisible, odourless, extremely small and light hydrogen gas (H₂) is an energy carrier that can store and produce both electricity and heat. And that, of course, is extremely interesting. The oxygen gas simply disappears back into the air, without harming the environment.

KU Leuven's hydrogen panels use sunlight to split the water vapour molecules in the air into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen gas can then be stored under pressure or transported by pipelines. It is suitable for all kinds of applications: industry, heavy transport, running emergency power generators and thus to generate electricity and heat.

The first of these environmentally friendly hydrogen panels are expected to be on the roofs of our homes by 2030. In time, they would cost as much as our solar panels cost now.