Wed at 1:55pm
Two cars powered by hydrogen derived from ammonia will be tested in Brisbane today thanks to a Queensland breakthrough that CSIRO researchers say could turn Australia into a renewable energy superpower.
- Australian fuel could soon be in high demand for hydrogen-powered cars across Asia
- It's the first time hydrogen cars have been powered with a fuel derived from ammonia
- Both Toyota and Hyundai have invested millions of dollars into hydrogen-powered cars
CSIRO principal research scientist Michael Dolan said it was a very exciting day for a project that has been a decade in the making.
"We started out with what we thought was a good idea, it is exciting to see it on the cusp of commercial deployment," he said.
For the past decade, researchers have worked on producing ultra-high purity hydrogen using a unique membrane technology.
The membrane breakthrough will allow hydrogen to be safely transported and used as a mass production energy source.
"We are certainly the first to demonstrate the production of very clean hydrogen from ammonia," Dr Dolan said.
"Today is the very first time in the world that hydrogen cars have been fuelled with a fuel derived from ammonia — carbon-free fuel."
Program leader David Harris said Australia has a huge source of renewable energy — sunlight and wind — that can be utilised to produce hydrogen.
But the highly flammable element is difficult to ship long distances because of its low density.
CSIRO researchers found a way to turn Australian-made hydrogen into ammonia, meaning it could be shipped safely to the mass market of Asia.
It is converted back into hydrogen using their membrane, then pumped into hydrogen-powered cars.
As of now, there are only five such cars in Australia, but there are tens of thousands across Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
"The key here is we can transport the hydrogen from the place where it is produced from renewable energy — let's say maybe that is in outback WA — and we can ship that form of ammonia anywhere in the world," Dr Harris said.
Independent industry association Hydrogen Mobility Australia said the technology has the potential to fill a gap in the chain to supply fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) with low-emissions hydrogen produced in Australia.