Carbon-free hydrogen production from water decomposition pathways powered by solar energy is a major part of the long-term R&D strategy of the FCH 2 JU for sustainable hydrogen supply. Thermochemical processes require less energy conversion steps for hydrogen production by renewable energy compared to electrochemical processes. Therefore, they have the potential to be more efficient.
Solar thermo-chemical cycles are capable to directly transfer concentrated sunlight into chemical energy by a series of chemical reactions. Based on concentrated solar radiation technologies the processes can be scaled-up to very large scale exceeding 100 MWth. Recent solar thermochemical research has focused on metal oxide based and sulphur based thermochemical cycles since they have the highest potential to be competitive, practicable and scalable up to an industrial level.
The success of those processes is often strongly linked to the availability of materials and components with the required properties. The performance of the current materials, mainly redox materials and catalysts is limiting the production rate of hydrogen in a concentrated solar power reactor. Sufficient heat can be introduced in the solar reactor. However, the mass transfer to the reactive surface, the heat transfer to and between the reactants and the chemical conversion rate of steam to hydrogen is limited by the properties and structure of the adsorbent materials currently available. Therefore, smart technical solutions are needed for material properties and structures on the one hand and for solar interfaces, reactor designs and for fluids consumption and handling on the other hand. Highly efficient components of the solar receiver/reactor unit as well as of the heat recovery unit are essential to achieve the required overall process efficiencies.
Proposals should focus on improving performances and looking for compatible target costs of the final technology Improving performance and reduce cost of thermochemical hydrogen production from concentrated sunlight. New solutions of components and overall system should be validated in the field.
The project proposal should address the following elements:
TRL at start: 3 and TRL at end: 5.
The proposal should build on previous FCH 2 JU projects' results on related processes and should seek intensive cooperation with European and national projects dealing with thermochemical fuel production; cooperation with Mission Innovation challenge 5 (‘Converting Sunlight’)  is encouraged.
Any safety-related event that may occur during execution of the project shall be reported to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) dedicated mailbox JRC-PTT-H2SAFETY@ec.europa.eu, which manages the European hydrogen safety reference database, HIAD.
Test activities should collaborate and use the protocols developed by the JRC Harmonisation Roadmap (see section 3.2.B "Collaboration with JRC – Rolling Plan 2018"), in order to benchmark performance of components and allow for comparison across different projects.
The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution of EUR 3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Expected duration: 3 - 4 years.
The project is expected to advance the knowledge and prove the technological feasibility of the concept of solar thermochemical water splitting including the environmental, social and economic benefits. The proposal should show its contribution towards building a sustainable renewable energy system contributing to the decarbonisation of our economies. The proposed solutions are expected to contribute to strengthening the EU leadership on renewables. In the case of solar-thermochemical water splitting this will be achieved through proving the feasibility and performance of key materials and key components needed to carry out the process in relevant scale.
The consortium will ensure that following actions are included in the project to fulfil to the planned target and reach the KPIs, such as:
These are needed to establish solar thermochemical water splitting as a completive technology for suitable sites and to contribute to achieve economic competitiveness to hydrogen production through PV or CSP powered electrolysis.
The project results should contribute to an increased decarbonisation of the transport sector, to a reduced dependency on fossil fuels and to a reduction of emission of air pollutants. The project should create significant visibility to the potential of applying solar thermal energy for fuel and in particular hydrogen production.
Type of action: Research and Innovation Action
The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter 3.3 and in the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018– 2020 which apply mutatis mutandis.