One of the biggest problems with the adoption of renewable energy as wide-scale power sources is the difficulty and expense in storing energy. Batteries are expensive, heavy, and can only hold a limited amount of energy. According to many industry experts, renewable energy sources like solar and wind power will not be adopted on a wide scale until the storage issue is solved.
Israeli energy start-up H2energy Now believes it has the storage solution – and the renewable energy source as well – that will enable society to easily adopt alternative energies. Hydrogen power isn’t new – as far back as the late 1700s it was being used experimentally to power machinery – but what is new is the use of radio waves to break down hydrogen and oxygen.
The technology shows such promise, the European Union believes, that it invited H2energy Now to one of the most prestigious tech shows in the world – the Alpine High-tech Venture Forum, sponsored by Eureka, the EU’s R&D framework organization. H2energy Now is the first, and so far only, Israeli company to be invited to the Forum, now in its 15th year.
Sonya Davidson, the company’s president and CEO, spoke to The Times of Israel about her start-up at an Ashdod tech event sponsored by TheHive, an accelerator developed by Gvahim, an Israeli NGO that helps highly-skilled Olim find employment in Israel at the level of their qualifications. The nonprofit Gvahim group was founded by the Rashi Foundation in 2006, and is one its eight subsidiaries sponsored by Rashi.
“We’ve developed the most efficient method for the storage of energy – using just water and radio waves, believe it or not,” said Davidson. “Our technological solution is based upon water, the basic foundation of life. But there is so much more in water; it has the power to store energy, and in fact energy – in the form of hydrogen – is right there inside the water.”
H2energy Now’s system uses fresh or saltwater, which is filtered into droplets. Each droplet is “zapped” with radio waves, with a frequency that can “shake up” the hydrogen-water bond sufficiently to separate the two gases. If saltwater is used, the salt just drops out of the water, which evaporates into the two gases (one issue Davidson is still working on is what to do with the huge amounts of salt that would be generated if the system were to be widely adopted).
Once “freed,” the hydrogen can be safely stored in a lightweight container, ready to be turned into electricity, fuel, or any other fossil fuel substitute. According to Davidson, storing hydrogen is perfectly safe, and in fact car companies such as Nissan and Honda – as well as public transportation firms from California to Israel to China – are using hydrogen power for their vehicles, with hydrogen storage tanks that are engineered to withstand heat and cold in various environments.
“The EU has invested a billion euros in engineering safe hydrogen storage solutions, and the US has spend $950 million to pursue those solutions as well. They are doing this because they see hydrogen as the best renewable energy source of the future,” said Davidson,
Davidson is not the first person to think of commercially producing hydrogen, but she is the first to think of doing it with radio waves, which scientific studies have shown to be an effective, scalable technology. Studies by H2energy Now, meanwhile, show that radio wave-based molecule separation is much more efficient than electrolysis, which is how hydrogen is generated from water or natural gas.
“We ‘lose’ less hydrogen from water than our electrolysis-based competitors do,” said Davidson. “We can operate at 89% efficiency, while they can usually get only 60% of the hydrogen in the water.”
On the other hand, the radio waves used by H2 Energy Now won’t work with natural gas, which is where most commercially-produced hydrogen on the market comes from.
But there’s no need for natural gas with her company’s system. “Hydrogen has no carbon, and if there is a leak in a tank it floats harmlessly into the atmosphere, unlike what happens when a gas leak occurs. Besides, saltwater is a lot cheaper than natural gas, and a lot more plentiful,” said Davidson. “There is no pollution created in our process. This is true clean technology.”