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A Critical Review on the Principles, Applications, and Challenges of Waste-to-hydrogen Technologies


Hydrogen sourced from energy recovery processes and conversion of waste materials is a method of providing both a clean fuel and a sustainable waste management alternative to landfill and incineration. The question is whether waste-to–hydrogen can become part of the zero-carbon future energy mix and serve as one of the cleaner hydrogen sources which is economically viable and environmentally friendly. This work critically assessed the potential of waste as a source of hydrogen production via various thermochemical (gasification and pyrolysis) and biochemical (fermentation and photolysis) processes. Research has shown hydrogen production yields of 33.6 mol/kg and hydrogen concentrations of 82% from mixed waste feedstock gasification. Biochemical methods such as fermentation can produce hydrogen up to 418.6 mL/g. Factors including feedstock quality, process requirements and technology availability were reviewed to guide technology selection and system design. Current technology status and bottlenecks were discussed to shape future development priorities. These bottlenecks include expensive production and operation processes, heterogeneous feedstock, low process efficiencies, inadequate management and logistics, and lack of policy support. Improvements to hydrogen yields and production rates are related to feedstock processing and advanced energy efficiency processes such as torrefaction of feedstock which has shown thermal efficiency of gasification up to 4 MJ/kg. This will affect the economic feasibility and concerns around required improvements to bring the costs down to allow waste to viewed as a serious competitor for hydrogen production. Recommendations were also made for financially competitive waste-to-hydrogen development to be part of a combined solution for future energy needs.

Funding source: EPSRC Studentship (EP/N509668/1).
Related subjects: Production & Supply Chain

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