Mar 02, 2020

Australian Start Up Produces Hydrogen from Wastewater

A trio of engineering students is exploring technology that can convert wastewater produced in the beer-making process into renewable hydrogen

drinking water

A trio of engineering students is exploring the use of cheap hydrogen supplies with a new technology. This technology can convert the wastewater produced in the beer-making process into renewable hydrogen.

The team, dubbed switcH2, is comprised of former chemical engineering students from the University of New South Wales. SwitcH2 has already attracted the support of Startmate’s start-up accelerator, which has received backing from Mike Cannon-Brooke’s Grok Ventures, reported RenewEconomy.

The switcH2 team has designed a process that uses a specialized catalyst, which allows the electrolysis process to operate in contaminated wastewater.

“As a young company, we’ve got a lot of ambition and a lot of energy to change the landscape of renewables adoption. We felt Startmate could match our ambition and our big-picture thinking and we have found the program to be extremely valuable and a great propeller towards our goals,” said co-founder Khushal Polepalle.

The group has successfully demonstrated the technology at small scale, including a stress test. They are now looking for partners to scale up the technology as with an eye to eventually commercialize the hydrogen production process at a large-scale.

“Hydrogen has enormous potential to completely disrupt our reliance on fossil fuels. Not only is it a zero-emission energy carrier, its applications are vast and varied. We’re just scraping the tip of the iceberg with its potential,” said switcH2 co-founder Constantine Tsounis. “The issue up until recently has been how to create hydrogen in a way that is both cost-effective and CO2 minimizing.”

The start-up is primarily targeting breweries, because they present an ideal mix as a source of wastewater and are high energy users and high wastewater producers.

According to Polepalle, the wastewater processing technology that switcH2 has developed is versatile and can work with any source of wastewater.

The deployment of a 5MW electrolyzer within a brewery could be used in the treatment of up to 4 million litres of wastewater, according to RenewEconomy

“As the hydrogen economy starts to accelerate in Australia, breweries producing excess hydrogen, particularly the large ones, will be able to offload that hydrogen to other users. Additionally, the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier for heating and/or electricity will offset costs, enabling businesses to save,” Polepalle said.

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