UWC unveils hydrogen generator

19 November 2014

South Africa has demonstrated its innovative capabilities in the emerging hydrogen and fuel cell technologies space with the launch of a 2.5Kw hydrogen fuel power generator prototype unit at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

The generator was developed by the HySA Systems Integration and Technology Validation Centre of Competence (HySA Systems) and Hot Platinum Pty Ltd, a local company involved in power management and control electronics, with funds from the Department of Science and Technology.

The companies have been testing the unit at the Cape Flats Nature Reserve, on the UWC’s Bellville campus, with remarkable results, according to a statement from the DST.

The hydrogen fuel cell power generator unit uses hydrogen to generate electrical power, with water vapour the only by-product, which means that electricity can be produced in an environmentally friendly way without pollution or noise.

Furthermore, hydrogen can be used to produce electricity in remote areas that do not have access to the national grid.

Unveiling the generator on Tuesday, 18 November, Director-General in the DST Dr Phil Mjwara said science, technology and innovation plays a critical role in the development of the country.

“We talk a lot about adding value and reducing our carbon footprint, about access for all, creating wealth and developing private/public partnerships. This project shows that we are capable of all these things,’ said Mjwara.

The decentralisation of energy generation by using hydrogen fuel cell systems is one of the few possibilities for providing efficient and cost-effective access to electricity.

Professor Bruno Pollet, Director of HySA Systems, said in the current climate where South African is facing power challenges, the prototype generator offers solutions. He said the South African government has rolled out several energy and energy-efficiency programmes and initiatives, such as HySA, with an emphasis on alternative energy opportunities and off-grid renewable energy solutions.

South Africa is one of the primary suppliers of platinum group metals to the world, but not much beneficiation is being done in the country. However, the rise of hydrogen fuel cell technologies in various markets is about to change the global platinum landscape with the anticipated increase in platinum usage in this emerging market.

Pollet said there were significant opportunities for South Africa to partner with international fuel cell producers, and that these partnerships had the potential to make the country an established hub for the production of fuel cell components.