Patents for Green Hydrogen Technology Increased Every Year By 18%

Highlights :

IRENA has been driving the global agenda on hydrogen within the wider context of accelerating the global energy transition in pursuit of the 1.5˚C climate goal.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the European Patent Office (EPO) published on May 12 a joint study about the trends and dynamism in the field of hydrogen that can be produced using renewable electricity via electrolysis. Using the patent statistics, the innovation trends in electrolysers for hydrogen production show a consistent pattern that patent filings for hydrogen production technologies have grown on average by 18% each year since 2005. IRENA has been driving the global agenda on hydrogen within the wider context of accelerating the global energy transition in pursuit of the 1.5˚C climate goal.

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Becoming the subject of researches across the world, Hydrogen has emerged as a very attractive green energy source not only because of abundant availability but also because it can be obtained through the electrolysis of water, using renewable electricity, in the presence of electrocatalysts. Besides, renewables-based hydrogen can be used as feedstock for the chemical sector and as fuel in fuel cells where the only by-product is water. It can also replace fossil sources in synthetic fuels, for example, when combined with captured carbon.

The demands for cleaner energy have never been greater, the environment showing signs of grave problem ahead. In spite of a steep increase in the number of patents filed, the report underlines that major innovations in electrolyser technology are still needed to further reduce its costs and make it market-ready at industrial levels. With its charts and commentary, the study is going to strike a chord with the technologists, companies and investors wanting to better understand these rapidly expanding technology domains.

The new report tracks the evolution of patent filings over the last 15 years and highlights several trends, including:

In 2016, the number of patent families for water electrolysis technologies surpassed the number of patents related to producing hydrogen from fossil sources (e.g. solid or liquid coal and oil-based hydrogen sources). In 2018, inventions for electrocatalysts based on cheaper minerals surpassed the number of inventions based on more traditional but expensive electrocatalysts (which use e.g. gold, silver, platinum or other noble metals), confirming the drive for cheaper alternatives.

This trend is pronounced and demonstrated by a surge in Chinese national patent filings. Photo electrolysis is a strong newly emerging technology that can integrate electricity and hydrogen production in a single step, potentially lowering production costs. The report notes an above average number of international patent families in this area – some 50% of which are filed by universities.

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