Technological Centre

At CETIM we research sustainable alternatives for energy production

We celebrate the World Energy Day by recalling the importance of promoting a respectful and sustainable use of energy resources.

Green hydrogen and the development of other safe and efficient storage and transport options are key to decarbonising the economy and achieving climate neutrality.

World Energy Day – 14th February 2024.

Today is the World Energy Day, an important day to remember the importance of seeking alternatives for sustainable energy production and responsible management of energy resources.

At CETIM we develop different technologies to promote the use of environmentally friendly energies that guarantee universal access to affordable and modern energy sources, such as renewable or green hydrogen, and that improve energy efficiency by improving the quality of electric car batteries.

Green hydrogen, the key to decarbonisation

Currently, Spain consumes around 500,000 tonnes of hydrogen per year, according to 2020 data included in the Hydrogen Roadmap, and 99% of this hydrogen consumed is grey, that means, it is produced from natural gas or other light hydrocarbons such as methane or liquefied petroleum gases by means of processes that emit carbon dioxide. At CETIM Technological Centre we develop different technologies for the production of green hydrogen, or in other words, hydrogen generated from renewable electricity using water as a raw material, by reforming biogas or converting biochemical waste.

Firstly, for the transformation of waste into energy, we investigated dark fermentation, a biological process that uses organic waste as raw material and produces hydrogen as the main gaseous product. This is made possible by the combined action of a set of anaerobic microorganisms. The waste that is normally used comes from both the urban environment (organic fraction of municipal solid waste, urban sewage sludge, etc.) and the industrial environment (mainly derived from the agri-food industry).

In addition to the advantage associated with the revaluation of organic waste, dark fermentation is a flexible method that allows other high-value resources, bioplastics or biogas to be obtained from the same waste. The latter is also obtained from waste through a process called anaerobic digestion, generating a gaseous stream (biogas) which, purified to biomethane, has a composition similar to natural gas.

Dark fermentation process.

On the other hand, we are also investigating at CETIM the photocatalysis of waste aqueous streams for the production of green hydrogen. This process is a photochemical reaction that converts solar energy into chemical energy on the surface of a catalyst. In our Centre, we shine sunlight or artificial light of a certain wavelength onto a semiconducting compound (catalyst) that is introduced into the aqueous solution. In this way, electron-hole pairs are produced on the surface, which react with the water to obtain hydrogen.

Energy Storage

Similarly, at CETIM we are working on the search for safe and efficient alternatives for the storage and transport of hydrogen. We are currently developing energy vector carrier systems based on organic liquids (LOHC), capable of binding and releasing hydrogen through chemical reactions; as well as solid materials based on polyHIPEs systems as an alternative based on the design of porous internal structures using emulsion techniques and porous materials based on cellulose nanoparticles.

It should also be noted that we are researching different advanced materials (synthetic, bio and/or recovered from secondary sources) for each of the components of the high energy density electrochemical cell. This research allows us to develop batteries more sustainable with better features, such as higher performance or sustainability, and always taking into account the economic impact of the development of these products.

Examples of this research are our ZEPPELIN project, in which we produce hydrogen from industrial and urban by-products, and the VOLTA Joint Research Unit, in which we develop silicon materials for efficient, sustainable and high-performance lithium-ion batteries.

These are just some of the technologies that we are developing at CETIM with the aim of achieving efficient materials for optimal adsorption-desorption of hydrogen to enable its production and storage in a sustainable way. Thanks to the use of hydrogen as an energy vector, we are able to adapt the needs of the industrial fabric to the strategic objectives of the European Union on climate neutrality, integration of renewable energies and decarbonisation.