New global partnership aims to advance renewable energy generation with net-zero hydrogen production technologies

The Global Hydrogen Production Technologies (HyPT) Center seeks to create a viable pathway to decarbonize energy-intensive industries such as ammonia, steel, cement, aluminum, transportation, and more.
HyPT logo

On September 18th, the U.S. National Science Foundation — in partnership with funding agencies from Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom — announced the establishment of the Global Hydrogen Production Technologies Center (HyPT). The goal of the center is to bring together researchers from around the world to advance technologies to achieve low-cost large-scale hydrogen production with net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases.

“We are very excited to be part of the Global Hydrogen Production Technologies (HyPT) Center that will propel clean hydrogen technology and educate the next generation of scientists, engineers, and leaders to help transition the globe to carbon neutrality,” said Prof. Zetian Mi, who leads the University of Michigan team.

Mi’s research group has long been at the forefront of advancing clean hydrogen technologies that could replace fossil fuels. For example, they are currently working to stabilize perovskite-based solar cells to produce highly-efficient, low-cost, ultrastable green hydrogen fuel. This involves the process of solar water splitting, which replicates photosynthesis by using the sun to separate hydrogen from water. They already dramatically improved the efficiency in converting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Zetian Mi’s team were able to accelerate the solar water splitting process, increasing the amount of hydrogen they were able to harvest.

“Being part of the center provides us with excellent opportunities for collaborations with experts around the world as we explore new ways to synthesize our materials in order to reduce the overall cost of the technology,” Mi said.

The center will specifically focus on three major net-zero hydrogen production technologies:

  • Water electrolysis, where electricity is used to split water into oxygen and hydrogen
  • Methane pyrolysis, where a natural gas is heated to a high temperature and splits into hydrogen and solid carbon
  • Photocatalytic solar water splitting, where sunlight is used help water break apart into oxygen and hydrogen

These technologies could help decarbonize energy-intensive industries such as ammonia, steel, cement, aluminum, transportation, and more. This is especially crucial for meeting the climate targets set by the Paris Agreement, which the U.S. rejoined in 2021.

The center will also focus on policies, economics, and markets to help build a global hydrogen economy. This includes addressing the water resource and treatment dimensions for electrolysis and photocatalysis.

The Center involves many institutions across six countries. It is led by Arizona State University (US), the University of Adelaide (Australia), the University of Toronto (Canada), and Cranfield University (UK). Other founding members of the Center include:

  • US: University of Michigan, Stanford University, Navajo Technical University
  • Australia: Flinders University, Curtin University
  • Canada: University of Quebec in Montreal, University of Calgary, McGill University, University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, University of British Columbia
  • UK: Imperial College London, Newcastle University, University of Cambridge, University of Birmingham
Zetian Mi
Prof. Zetian Mi

The HyTP center is one of twenty global centers created by the NSF and the partnering international funding agencies to develop use-inspired research on climate change and clean energy. Seven centers, including the HyTP, are focused on implementing new technologies at scale.

“Global Centers will sync talent across the globe to generate the discoveries and solutions needed to empower resilient communities everywhere,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan.

Some IP in Mi’s lab has been licensed to NS Nanotech Inc. and NX Fuels Inc., which were co-founded by Mi. The University of Michigan and Mi have a financial interest in these companies.