Loughborough University’s world-first lead-acid battery-electrolyser nominated in all three Academic Excellence categories of the 2024 Hydrogen Awards

Loughborough University’s world-first lead-acid battery-electrolyser has three nominations in the 2024 Hydrogen Awards which celebrate outstanding international achievements related to hydrogen adoption, implementation, and forward-thinking across various industries and sectors.

The innovative low-cost system which makes it viable to use excess renewable energy to produce hydrogen gas is shortlisted for the Academic Excellence in Hydrogen Award categories representing International Partnerships, UK Universities, and HyDEX Midlands-based Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) Universities.

Invented, designed and prototype manufactured in the University’s Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology, the innovation is being accelerated for use in renewable energy-powered microgrids that support the world’s poorest communities without access to electricity or clean cooking – issues which respectively affect 13% of the global population and 2.4 billion people.  There are also applications for battery-electrolysers in offshore wind.

To properly utilise hydrogen as an energy vector in a zero-carbon economy there is a pressing need to scale up green hydrogen (zero-carbon) produced through electrolysis using renewable energy.

Traditional electrolysers which produce hydrogen have a high capital cost. This means that to justify the upfront cost, they must run continuously. The Loughborough battery-electrolyser has a lower capital cost and multiple income streams because it is both a battery and an electrolyser. The battery stores the electricity generated from renewable sources, such as solar. Once the battery is full, the energy which would usually be thrown away is used to generate green hydrogen.

Furthermore, this is the first battery-electrolyser based on lead chemistry. Lead is the world’s most recycled product which allows it to be cheaply and effectively recycled back into new battery-electrolysers at the end of its life.

Dani Strickland, Professor of Electrical Power Engineering and project lead said: “The challenges to scaling the lead acid battery-electrolyser technology up to a fully developed, tested and proven prototype include guaranteeing a decent lifespan and low-cost rapid manufacturing.  

"We are working with global research and industry partners including the Consortium of Battery Innovation and lead acid battery suppliers Hoppecke and Monbat to facilitate major scale up of the battery-electrolyser technology. 

"We are developing at rapid pace. We have funding to get four units running by the end of 2026 in Malawi, Zambia, the Ivory Coast and our test site at Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park.

"Every year, poor indoor air quality is the cause of approximately 22,000 deaths in the Ivory Coast, and an estimated 700,000 deaths across Africa, so by offsetting charcoal with our green hydrogen solution and green hydrogen cooking, we can help improve the air quality and prevent some of these respiratory based deaths.

"Recognition of the team’s achievements by the Hydrogen Awards is an honour. The more publicity and support we get the faster we can make this a product!” 

Professor Dan Parsons, Loughborough University Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation said: “With the impact of climate change being keenly felt, the world cannot afford to wait for new innovations to come to market slowly. With Loughborough University’s novel IP at its heart, using advanced manufacturing processes in conjunction with global project partners, the lead-acid battery-electrolyser is accelerating from laboratory prototype through to a cost-effective product with game-changing, real-world application.  I am delighted that this world-first technology has been recognised by the international hydrogen community and I wish the team the best of luck for the Hydrogen Awards and continued success with the project.”

The results of the 2024 Hydrogen Awards will be announced at the Hydrogen Summit hosted by ERA and supported by Keele University on Tuesday evening, 27 February.

Find out more about Loughborough University’s hydrogen research and innovation capabilities online.