Lund University in Sweden have come up with an interesting proposition for charging Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers (LOHC) with 'Green Hydrogen' for a 'Closed loop' fuel cycle.
So, a LOHC is charged with Hydrogen then converted to Hydrogen gas using an Iridium catalyst (with 99% conversion efficiency), for fuel cells to power electric transport in a 'Closed loop' cycle. I'm unsure how green the LOHC is: isopropanol (which is a common ingredient in screenwash) and 4-methylpiperidine but it would get reused - needs more research. I'm betting that if this preliminary research steams ahead, greener LOHCs will be discovered. Also, maybe a biochar-supported catalyst (BCSC) with highly tunable surface chemistry could replace or enhance Iridium (with less Iridium/nano-substitute reverse engineered Iridium, doped BCSC, needed). Same argument as the Perovskite crystals for Photovoltaic cells and panels. Lund University might have found the first Zen stone catalyst/structure for dehydrogenation of a greeener LOHC -but -Iridium might be specific to the LOHC mentioned in the study - why not take a punt and try it for other LOHCs? It's just a combination problem that could be machine learned for system integration - Catalyst + LOHC...lock and key. Could be a Nobel Science Prize if it's open source. So let's get down to business.
The system could take ten years to develop, according to researcher Professor Ola Wendt, but possible however by then ceramic Solid-State Batteries (SSBs) eg.Lithium-air, will probably have taken over most of the EV space eg.e-bikes, cars, buses, trains and trucks. Unsure about aviation. I imagine shipping could be an exception and the main application for this Hydrogen system as SSBs could be too expensive for larger scales of ships with enormous payloads - but - wait and see or do.
How would the shipping idea work? The advantage of this system for shipping is liquid fuel handling similar to Methanol and Green Ammonia (but safer) with the advantage of a 'closed (energy) loop' for reusing the LOHC which is more sustainable (with only water vapor emissions) than the 'open (energy) loop' of Methanol (CO2 emissions) and Green Ammonia (Nitrogen emissions). I should mention too that in the proposed 'Green Ammonia' hub at Gibson Island, IPL is still using the inefficient 'Haber-Bosch' process. I believe ammonia also has a higher value use case as fertiliser rather than for fuel but ideally organic fertiliser would be produced and used on the local scale combined with biochar compost.
'Green Hydrogen' could be produced at or near shipping ports, used to charge the spent/discharged LOHC collected from the ships while at port then refuel the ships with Hydrogen charged LOHC in a 'Closed loop'. Sparc Technologies are producing Hydrogen directly from water exposed to the sun with no electricity using a photocatalyst. A biochar photocatalyst (a type of 'Biochar Supported Catalyst') could be a more sustainable catalyst for their system which they are looking into. Alternatively, 'Green Hydrogen' could be produced with electricity using water electrolysis and could be powered by offshore wind turbines strategically located around the ports. There's wave energy too. And water fusion (which could trump this entire system with In Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) of water for onboard fusion powering electric engines). Otherwise, if there isn't enough wind or wave action, electrolysis of water for Hydrogen could be grid-tied to an ideally 100% renewable powered grid. Hysata, based in Australia (as opposed to 'Plug Power'), has developed an efficient way to electrolyse water for 'Green Hydrogen', which could be done directly from seawater (more cost effective than using potable water without the opportunity cost) integrating the University of Hong Kong's recently developed SS-H2 stainless steel for non-corrosive electrodes - a recent breakthrough that could change the game. There's also the possibility of electromodding existing ships with electric engines and fuel cells though I'm not an expert in this area but I imagine it's possible.
There's a problem here for billionaires and the Earth - Do you build a less sustainable fuel system now and lock it in or do you sink your money into R&D for a more sustainable fuel system that might not be ready for deployment for another 10 years (or sooner or later) in the future? If you're purchasing a computer, you buy what's available and affordable at the time - but I'm talking about an entire transport industry with a massive C footprint. Maybe it's worth the wait and get it right for the next ?50+ years...It's the equivalent of using a standard USB-C port with backwards compatibility...in other words, the Hydrogen fuel cells, the electric engines and the 'Green Hydrogen' production processes and technologies can/will all improve over time but could be backwards compatible with and independent of a standard catalyst+LOHC system. So, it's essential to find the greenest chemistry possible for the catalyst+LOHC (maybe with machine learning chemical discovery) as it could be rolled out at large scale, and ideally using open source chemistry to avoid IP issues. I think the concept is great but the Devil is in the chemistry.
It's a gobsmacking opportunity for chemical engineers and the shipping industry!