Microfluidic Wastewater Treatment and Creation of Green Hydrogen Via Electrochemical Reactions (MacGhyver)

MacGhyver is an EU-funded project focused on advancing sustainable hydrogen production by developing a cutting-edge microfluidic electrolyzer. This groundbreaking initiative has received funding from the European Innovation Council (EIC) under the Pathfinder Challenge program. The primary goal of the project is to create an electrolyzer that can efficiently treat wastewater while simultaneously producing hydrogen, in a membraneless design. Such a technology could have far-reaching benefits for the environment and energy sector, and MacGhyver is at the forefront of this important research effort.

What is the challenge?

Sustainable energy supply is the most pressing global challenge of our time. Hydrogen is a highly credible option due to its clean and sustainable energy-carrying capabilities and is being viewed as a new energy carrier with the potential to play a pivotal role in the success of decarbonization across various sectors, including industrial, transportation, and building. Governments worldwide are actively developing hydrogen strategies and policies to encourage the use of hydrogen through demand creation and cost reduction measures. Green hydrogen, in particular, offers significant advantages over other hydrogen production methods as it is produced using renewable energy, making it one of the cleanest and most sustainable energy carriers available. Despite its promise, green hydrogen faces several challenges that must be addressed for its widespread adoption. Firstly, the cost of green hydrogen production remains high due to low production efficiencies. Secondly, scaling up production to meet growing demand requires significant investment in infrastructure and technology, including the development of large-scale electrolysis systems and hydrogen storage facilities. Lastly, the production of hydrogen through electrolysis requires significant amounts of water, which in itself is a critical resource. Overcoming the challenges of cost, scaling up, and water usage is critical to unlocking the full potential of green hydrogen as a clean and renewable energy source.

What is the project about?

MacGhyver is an EIC-funded project that aims to develop an innovative hydrogen production system to overcome the key challenges currently facing the industry, particularly the high production costs that have hindered the widespread adoption of green hydrogen. To achieve this goal, MacGhyver has made several technological breakthroughs.

MacGhyver’s compact, high-energy efficiency system doubles as an advanced wastewater treatment device and has the potential to lead the way in the rise of green hydrogen. The microfluidic electrolyzer design interconnects microchannels in a highly parallelized manner, allowing for processing large volumes of water at negligible pumping losses. The absence of turbulence in the micron-scale enables the flow-through design which separates the gaseous products through the use of flow, eliminating the need for a membrane separator and enabling electrodes to be placed less than 1 mm apart, resulting in negligible ohmic losses at the microscale. This design also allows for the use of sustainable electrolytes like wastewater.

MacGhyver’s use of non-critical raw material electrodes is another innovative feature that is more cost-effective while still being highly efficient. MacGhyver has planned work packages targeted to innovate in compression and separation systems, aiming to increase compactness and efficiency, creating a novel hydrogen production system that is truly green and sustainable.

To ensure market acceptance and commitment, MacGhyver is also targeting key stakeholders from regulation and the market to secure support for further development. The cost of green hydrogen production ranges from $3/kg to $6.55/kg, while fossil-based hydrogen costs around $1.80/kg. To achieve market acceptance, the cost of electrolysis plants must be reduced by 40% in the short term and 80% in the long term. The MacGhyver system aims to achieve an impressive 45 kWh/kg H2, resulting in a production cost of just $1/kg H2, which represents a remarkable 150% reduction in cost.


Who is behind the project?

As an SME-led consortium, MacGhyver brings together experts from diverse fields to achieve their project goals. The coordinator of the project Eden Tech, a Paris-based SME, excels in microfluidics with pioneering patented technologies in high throughput microfluidics for environmental applications. Technische Universiteit Delft in the Netherlands specializes in alkaline water electrolyzers for green H2 production and investigates new designs through simulations, experiments, and theory. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany specializes in the design and operation of interlinked energy and material conversion systems, development, and model-theoretic description of selected electrochemical components and processes. Universidad De Castilla – La Mancha from Spain evaluates the environmental impact and electrochemical processes, while Technische Universität Clausthal from Germany is an expert in electrocatalysis and engineering. Lastly, Politechnika Poznanska from Poland specializes in energy storage and environmental protection. The consortium’s multidisciplinary expertise makes them well-suited to develop a scalable wastewater-to-hydrogen system.

Which novel technologies are going to be developed during the project?

The MacGhyver consortium has set its sights to develop and produce a green hydrogen production technology that reaches the technology readiness level (TRL) 4. This technology promises to be a game-changer in the field of sustainable energy production by introducing an innovative electrolyzer that integrates cutting-edge components designed to optimize both environmental sustainability and cost-effectiveness. These components include a microfluidic stack, non-critical raw material (CRM) electrodes, an electrochemical hydrogen compressor, renewable energy supply sources, and wastewater as a feedstock. The microfluidic stack is a unique feature that offers superior performance compared to traditional electrolyzers in terms of design, energy efficiency, and compactness. Using non-CRM electrodes helps minimize the production process’s environmental impact by reducing the need for rare and expensive materials. The electrochemical hydrogen compressor is a novel technology that enhances the efficiency of the system by compressing hydrogen gas at lower energy costs. The integration of renewable energy sources ensures that the production process is both sustainable and cost-effective. Meanwhile, the use of wastewater as a feedstock is an innovative and eco-friendly approach that utilizes a resource that would otherwise go to waste. Finally, we introduce the life cycle analysis (LCA) and life cycle cost (LCC) study into our project, which provides a comprehensive view of the environmental and economic impact of our product. The LCC and LCA are systematic methods for evaluating the environmental impact and taking into account all costs associated throughout the entire life cycle. This includes the extraction of raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal as well as initial investment, maintenance, operation, and disposal costs.

The successful development of this novel electrolyzer has the potential to revolutionize the field of green hydrogen production, paving the way for a more sustainable and cost-effective energy future. By harnessing the expertise of each consortium partner and leveraging their complementary skill sets, the MacGhyver consortium is poised to significantly impact the energy landscape.

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