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Development of Novel Catalysts to Efficiently Produce Ammonia via Electrochemical Processes (Theme 1 & 2)

TEAM: Miss Maggie Lim, Dr Emma Lovell, Scientia Prof Rose Amal, and Dr Rahman Daiyan

Ammonia and its derivatives have been used widely, with over 200 millions tons produced via the Haber-Bosch process, which accounts for more than 2% of global energy consumption and generating ~1.4% carbon dioxide emissions globally. The process is economically limited to only large-scale production and strongly dependent on fossil fuels for pure hydrogen feedstock. More recently NH3 is vastly explored as one of the most promising hydrogen energy carriers to facilitate global hydrogen economy however there is a need for the process to be greener. This project is looking into green ammonia production by using plasma-electrolyser hybrid system to convert air and water into intermediary NOx and subsequently being synthesized into NH3. The approach provides opportunity for complete green energy cycle and decentralized local production. The generated NH3 can be readily used as H2 fuel via NH3 splitting or feedstock in industry.

Recent publications: 

Nitrate reduction to ammonium: From CuO defect engineering to waste NOx-to-NH3 economic feasibility, , 14(6), 3588–3598.

Modelling Power-to-X Pathways for Closing the Carbon Loop: An Australian Perspective (Theme 4)

TEAM: Mr Jacobus van AntwerpenScientia Prof Rose Amal, Dr Rahman Daiyan and Dr Tze Hao Tan, Prof Francois Aguey Zinsou Kondo

Power to X is a series of technological pathways of connected processes, technologies and applications focused on the generation, storage, conversion, and utilization of clean energy. These pathways serve to expand the decarbonising potential of renewable energy to applications either too expensive or beyond the reach of ‘direct’ electrification. Chemical energy carriers allow for cost-effective long-distance transport and storage of clean energy, carbon neutral synthetic fuels for substitution in key fuel consuming industries, and carbon neutral feedstocks for decarbonising further down the value chain of chemical and manufacturing industries. Power to X will require coordination across multiple industries and sectors to integrate the required technologies and logistical frameworks from power generation and conversion, through to storage and utilization. The aim of this research is to reduce uncertainty surrounding the feasibility and effectiveness of Power-to-X pathways with specific emphasis on those with potential for closing the carbon loop. This work will extend beyond current literature by addressing the flagged gaps listed above through process modelling and analysis focusing on the incorporation of variation of carbon capture point source type and scale, intermediate feedstock and energy storage systems for integration with standalone renewable energy sources, and potential technologies and configurations to allow for renewable integration of process heating and electrical utilities within carbon capture and energy carrier generation processes.

Techno-Economic Feasibility of Hydrogen Production - A Case Study of Australia (Theme 4)

TEAM: Mr Muhammad Haider Khan, Dr Rahman DaiyanScientia Prof Rose Amal, and Prof Iain Macgill

INDUSTRY PARTNER: Hasnur Group, Origin Energy


​Australia has the potential to emerge as leading hydrogen economy due to its vast natural resources, stable government and industry interest as well as commitments to transition to clean energy future. It is imperative to recognize and identify business opportunities that would capture both economic and environmental benefits of transiting to clean hydrogen fuel, but this will require in-depth understanding and analysis of hydrogen value chains.
The aims of this project are to determine the cost of generating hydrogen in Australia, with a prime focus on improving sustainability and economics of the hydrogen value chains (that includes production, storage/transport, and utilization of hydrogen) while reducing the environmental footprint; and to develop techno-economic tools to evaluate the feasibility of hydrogen production/utilization in different existing, proposed, and future business case scenarios using Australia as a primary case study. 

Recent publications: 

•    Designing optimal integrated electricity supply configurations for renewable hydrogen generation in Australia, IScience, 24(6).

•    A framework for assessing economics of blue hydrogen production from steam methane reforming using carbon capture storage & utilization, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 46(44), 22685–22706. 

•    NSW Power to X (P2X) Industry Pre- Feasibility Study: A Roadmap for a P2X economy in NSW”. Australia: UNSW Sydney, 2021: 

•    The Case for an Australian Hydrogen Export Market to Germany: State of Play Version 1.0. UNSW Sydney, Australia. DOI: 26190/35zd-8p21 

Technoeconomic models for hydrogen generation and utilization including Life Cycle Assessment for hydrogen technologies (Theme 4)

TEAM: Mr Jack Shepherd, Prof Iain MacgillDr Rahman Daiyan and Scientia Prof Rose Amal

INDUSTRY PARTNER: Hasnur Group, Origin Energy

Taking a multidisciplinary approach, this project will model existing and emerging low-carbon hydrogen generation pathways and utilization. The output from the analysis will be used to identify technical, economic, safety, social and regulatory factors that contribute towards the challenges the hydrogen industry faces for widespread adoption and provide a basis from which to evaluate possible solutions. To address the challenge of decarbonisation and ensure the hydrogen industry adopts low emission technologies, Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) will be used as a tool to evaluate existing and emerging hydrogen technologies. The output from the LCA of hydrogen technologies will be used in conjunction with the output from the Technoeconomic analysis to identify clear pathways that can address the key challenges and contribute to growing the hydrogen industry in Australia and internationally

Photocatalytic reforming: H2 generation and selective oxidation of waste organics (Theme 1)

TEAM: Mr Denny Gunawan, A/Prof Jason Scott, Dr Cuiying Toe (UoN) and Scientia Prof Rose Amal


Photoreforming is the process that captures natural sunlight to convert biomass waste into green H2 gas and value-added chemicals. Upon solar irradiation, photocatalyst will be activated to simultaneously reduces H+ into H2 and oxidises biomass organic compounds. The addition of biomass waste into the system will not only accelerate the H2 generation efficiency, but also assist in tackling the waste management issues. As part of the project, the team has developed a photoreforming prototype to generate green H2 from biomass waste and the Sun. The constructed slurry photoreforming prototype utilises only sunlight as the dominant energy input and do not require additional electricity supply. The photocatalytic process is directly activated by sunlight and PV panel is used to supply electricity to pump the photocatalyst suspension. The photocatalyst suspension is efficiently circulated through the flowing tubes enclosed by solar concentrator, which allows for improved mass transfer and light penetration efficiencies.

Development of hydrogen-enabled economy transformation models (Theme 4)

TEAM: Mr Yuechuan Tao and Dr Jeremy Qiu, Dr Rahman Daiyan

INDUSTRY PARTNER: Shenzhen Evolution Technology

This project is looking into developing a comprehensive value chain energy model for possible hydrogen economy scenarios in Australia. While potential export markets are being explored, there is also a need to determine the feasibility of a domestic hydrogen market, and potentially through blending with natural gas. This project will carry out energy-system modelling, using the validated AUS-TIMES model generator developed by the International Energy Agency (IEA) to determine key energy trends and how they may impact local and global hydrogen markets.

Recent publications: 

Deflagration to Detonation Transition (DDT) phenomenon in premixed hydrogen-oxygen mixtures (Theme 3)

TEAM: Dr Hamidreza Rahimpour, Prof. Behdad Moghtaderi and Prof Elham Doorodchi, Dr Emma Lovell

INDUSTRY PARTNER: Southern Green Gas

The project is concerned with hydrogen explosion and will develop a deeper understanding about mechanisms that lead to the most severe type of explosion known as detonation. The principal aim of this project is to expand the science underpinning the acceleration of premixed hydrogen flames and thereby establish a greater insight into the deflagration to detonation transition Phenomenon (DDT) for hydrogen, oxygen, and their mixtures. This goal will be achieved through a multi-scale experimental approach to study DDT at different scales and environmental conditions. The project outcomes will help close the gap of knowledge in understanding mechanisms and energy for hydrogen ignition in various conditions

Metal based zeolite catalyst development for CO2 hydrogenation (Theme 2)

TEAM: Postdoc (TBR), Prof John Zhu, Dr Hong Peng, A/Prof Jason Scott


The Project will develop a sustainable process for converting captured CO₂ into valued-added hydrocarbon fuels such as methanol through hydrogenation, using structured metal-doped synthetic zeolites as a catalyst. By catalytically converting post-combustion CO2 into fuels or value-added chemicals we present an environmentally friendly and cost-effective utilisation solution which will close the loop in a circular carbon economy. Multiple zeolites with different chemical, physical and catalytic properties will be developed to converse CO2 to various hydrocarbon products for multiple end-users. By working closely with centre, the CO2 conversion process advanced by Zeotech’s zeolite technology aims to fast and rigorous lab validation as well as pilot testing and commercialisation.

Sodium Borohydride as a Hydrogen Carrier (Theme 2)

TEAM: Postdoc (TBR), Prof Craig Buckley, A/Prof Mark Paskevicius, Prof Francois Aguey Zinsou

INDUSTRY PARTNER: Kotai Energy (WA Hydrogen Pty Ltd)

This project aims to develop a method of producing, storing, and exporting green hydrogen using Australian resources. This project will be a partnership between Curtin University and industry partner Kotai Energy within the framework of the ARC Global Hydrogen ITTC. Sodium borohydride will be produced from borax using renewable energy and exported internationally to countries that desire hydrogen from renewable sources to replace fossil fuels. Green hydrogen will be released from sodium borohydride by adding water. The spent material will then be shipped back to Australia for recycling back to sodium borohydride, creating a closed-loop energy cycle using renewable energy.

Renewable Hydrogen carriers from high-sugar content waste streams (Theme 1 & 2)

TEAM: Mrs Sumaya Sarmin, A/Prof Jason Scott and Scientia Prof Rose Amal

Waste streams and waste products from certain food manufacturing processes (e.g.beverages, sauces) can have a high sugar content. Waste sugar-containing solutions represent a potential organic/biomass feedstock to produce chemical based hydrogen carriers and/or for renewable hydrogen production. The process requires two steps: (1) converting the sugar into a chemical hydrogen carrier using a solar-thermal catalytic reactor; (2) generating renewable hydrogen by using the hydrogen carrier in a solar-powered electrocatalytic system. The project seeks to recruit a Ph.D. to work on focus on converting sugar into a chemical hydrogen carrier using a continuous-flow solar-thermal catalytic reactor and suitable catalyst material which is able to accelerate the conversion of high-sugar-content waste into chemical hydrogen carriers and have long operational lifetimes while doing so. The product stream from the solar-thermal catalytic reactor has to be suitable for hydrogen generation in a downstream electrocatalytic system

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