UOIT Engineering professors awarded major grant to advance research on low-cost hydrogen production

News release
June 17, 2010

Four-year project will further develop technology for light-powered generation of hydrogen fuel from water

OSHAWA, ON. – Two professors at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) have been awarded $883,000 for the engineering design, research and construction of a pre-commercial pilot plant that will use water and solar energy to generate hydrogen gas, the clean energy of the future.

Over the next four years, Dr. Ibrahim Dincer and Dr. Greg Naterer, professors with UOIT’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, will receive funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and cash and in-kind support from Toronto-based Phoenix Canada Oil Company Limited. The funding will be used to further develop Phoenix’s low-cost production system, which is required to scale up a new photochemical technology that uses photosynthesis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

“Researchers around the world have attempted for decades to use sunlight for efficiently generating hydrogen from water, but unsuccessfully from a practical and economic perspective,” said Dr. Naterer, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Advanced Energy Systems and principal investigator. “We’re grateful to Phoenix Canada Oil and NSERC for their support of this project that promises to significantly reduce the costs of converting solar to chemical energy in the form of hydrogen.”

The technology is based on a proprietary photochemical system that simulates artificial photosynthesis. It uses molecular photocatalysts, or artificially fabricated molecules, that absorb sunlight to bring electrons together and facilitate the water splitting process, without being degraded or consumed over time. This project will develop, analyze, fabricate and test the equipment required for the engineering system. It will also identify possible improvements and enable the development of a pre-commercial hydrogen pilot plant on UOIT’s north Oshawa campus, where the prototype will be built and tested using artificial sunlight under controlled conditions.

“We are very excited to partner with UOIT and work with its world-class research professors towards an energy solution that is environmentally friendly and cost effective,” said Don Moore, chief executive officer, Phoenix Canada Oil.”This initiative will be powered by a virtually inexhaustible pollution-free energy resource that will generate sustainable clean energy, emitting only pure water vapour upon combustion.”

The project will further complement UOIT’s current hydrogen research portfolio, which includes the world’s first lab-scale demonstration of a copper-chlorine cycle for nuclear hydrogen production. The cycle produces hydrogen by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen through intermediate copper and chlorine compounds, without emitting any greenhouse gases or other pollution to the environment.

UOIT has developed a national reputation for leadership in hydrogen research. It received $3 million in the 2007 provincial budget to expand its hydrogen research capacity, as well as $6-million through the Ontario Research Fund and NSERC. Finding a lower-cost sustainable method of producing large volumes of hydrogen is essential for reducing the air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

About UOIT
As an innovative university, UOIT delivers a leading-edge learning environment that uniquely combines academic knowledge, research opportunities, hands-on skills and a vibrant student life. UOIT’s more than 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students are taught by professors who are experts in their fields from around the world. As Ontario’s first laptop-based university, the university offers a diverse array of challenging undergraduate and graduate degree programs through its faculties of Business and Information Technology; Criminology, Justice and Policy Studies; Education; Energy Systems and Nuclear Science; Engineering and Applied Science; Health Sciences; and Science. UOIT’s commitment to research excellence has resulted in millions of dollars in grants and awards, including six Canada Research Chairs. To find out more, visit www.uoit.ca or call 905.721.8668.

Media Contact
Melissa Levy
Communications and Marketing
University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)
905.721.8668 ext. 2513
melissa.levy@uoit.ca

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