Dr. Konstantinos Kakosimos
Qatar’s geographical positioning makes it an ideal location for harnessing solar power. In 2020, Doha received around ten hours of sunlight daily, with June being the sunniest month averaging more than twelve hours of sunlight a day. To capitalize on this, the government of Qatar has set an objective to meet 20% of its energy needs through solar power by 2030 which will reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons and consequently, reduce its carbon footprint.
Similarly, hydrogen produced by renewable sources of energy can also help Qatar and the world amplify their decarbonisation efforts. Considering its potential as an energy carrier of the future, some governments have already started developing their renewable hydrogen production industries. As in the case of solar power, Qatar and the GCC is a viable destination for the production of renewable hydrogen too and can be a major player in the developing global hydrogen export market.
To help Qatar diversify its energy resources and tap its potential as a leading solar power and hydrogen-producing country, Qatar National Research Fund has funded various high-impact research projects. One of these projects, led by researchers from Texas A&M University at Qatar, uses solar energy to produce hydrogen.
Titled, “Solar Hybrid Hydrogen Production Cycle with In-situ Thermal Energy Storage,” (NPRP 6 - 116 - 2 - 044) the project has been made possible through QNRF’s flagship National Priorities Research Program. This month, we feature Dr. Konstantinos Kakosimos, a co-LPI of the project, and Associate Professor and Dean’s Fellow for Multiversity at TAMUQ to learn more about the research project and how it will help Qatar meet its objectives of sustainable energy production.
- What was the motivation behind your project?
Hydrogen is currently being used in many industries, from chemical and refining to metallurgical, glass, and electronics industries, while being a promising energy carrier at the same time. However, the traditional hydrogen production methods including steam methane reforming and water electrolysis are energy-intensive and directly or indirectly produce significant CO2 emissions.
Therefore, hydrogen production from sustainable processes and renewable materials is one of the most critical challenges of coming years to overcome to develop a thriving hydrogen economy. Therefore, our research focused on technologies that can produce hydrogen directly from solar energy in an economically and environmentally friendly way.
- Can you let us know a bit more about the technical details/aspects of the project?
The starting point of our project was a solar-powered chemical process that innovatively utilizes both the photon and thermal portion of the light (the hybrid sulfur ammonia water splitting cycle). During the course of the project, the research team including Dr. Arun Srinivasa (LPI from the TAMUQ), Nazim Muradov (PI from the Florida Solar Energy Center, US), myself (co-LPI), and our students conducted new experimental and numerical work.
For example, synthesis and characterization of photocatalysts for the hydrogen production from water and thermodynamic analysis and high-temperature studies for the closure of cycle.
- What is the suitability and applicability of the outcomes of this project in Qatar?
Although at a low technology readiness level, our findings and technologies directly contribute to Qatar’s visionary efforts in diversifying energy use by including renewable energy sources for the clean production of fuels and commodities. Internationally, sustainable and environmentally friendly hydrogen production efforts continue to intensify, which reaffirms the importance of projects like this one.
- Can you share with us any publications that have resulted from this project?
Our project has produced a good number of publications including thirteen journal papers and a book chapter. Moreover, we have presented our research and its outcomes at more than sixteen conferences, and we continue to be invited even after the project has been completed.
However, our proudest achievement is the professional development of our student team members, including seven undergraduates and three MSc students, and our researchers, including a PhD candidate and a postdoctoral fellow who is now a faculty member, who received valuable experience, training, and mentorship here in Qatar throughout the project and will carry forward Qatar’s sustainable energy drive.
- Has this research project led to any subsequent research on the topic?
The legacy of this project is another key point. The developed methods, the fabricated facilities, and the experiences gained led us to two new NPRP, one PDRA, and two UREP awards. Moreover, we also worked on two internal projects, and twice as many new proposals. For example, currently, I am working with the Qatar Shell Research and Technology Center on hydrogen production via photochemical water splitting, aiming for a pilot-scale demonstration.