The photo is sourced from abc.net.au
The main element of the prototype is a water collecting unit made of porous material and impregnated with a hygroscopic (i.e capable of absorbing moisture) ionic solution. There are two opposite electrodes on both sides of the unit: an anode – attracting oxygen ions and a cathode – attracting hydrogen ions. The electrodes are connected to the gas receivers. At the same time, the liquid storage unit can be used as a reservoir for storing electrolyte (the substance that conducts electric current due to dissociation into ions).
The device can be paired with a solar panel, a wind generator or any other source of clean energy. The accumulated water is transferred to the surface of the electrodes where it separates into oxygen and hydrogen in isolation from the air. The prototype is able to generate 3.7 m3 of hydrogen per day at a relative humidity of 4%, which is a fraction of the humidity in the African tropical Sahel region at the tip of the Sahara (20%), as well as in the central Australian desert near Mount Uluru (21%).
The innovation, if scaled up, will help to expand the geography of green hydrogen projects, which so far have been implemented mainly in the countries with abundant water resources. The only sub-Saharan country poised to become a major hydrogen producer is Namibia where the site for a 3 GW electrolysis facility will be the Tsau Haeb National Park located on the Atlantic coast.