Instant generation of highly pure hydrogen from fossil fuels

Hydrogen is considered as the fuel for the future. It has the highest energy content of any common fuel by weight and produces water and clean energy when used in a fuel cell. Current hydrogen production methodologies are inefficient and involve COx emission which necessitates the parallel use of expensive carbon capture technologies.

Oxford researchers have developed a new method of producing H2 instantly from fossil fuels with minimal oxygenated by-products. The process uses microwave radiation and a cheap, abundant base metal catalyst, generating hydrogen in more than 95% purity. Moreover, using microwave technology significantly simplifies the hydrogen production process. The technology enables utilising the well-established infrastructure of petroleum and the advantages of a fuel cell, which will enable the hydrogen economy and reduce the emission from the automotive industry.

The search for clean fuels

In the 21st century, there is an ever-increasing drive to move away from traditional fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives. Hydrogen is widely regarded as one of the key energy solutions and a greener alternative to combat global warming and provide sustainable energy as it produces only water and clean energy when used in a fuel cell. However, current hydrogen production and storage techniques are expensive, inefficient and even unsafe in many cases. For example, all conventional options of hydrogen production from hydrocarbons involve CO2 production and slow startup. With the growing demand for clean energy and increasingly stringent regulation on transport quality worldwide, there is an urgent need to find cleaner and more sustainable fuels.

Making a clean start

The majority of the world’s hydrogen is produced by steam reforming or partial oxidation of methane or coal gasification. All of these processes produce COX compounds known to contribute to global warming. In addition, hydrogen storage and release is the bottleneck for fuel cell application due to the super high pressure and flammable nature of hydrogen.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have developed a microwave-assisted non-oxidative process to release hydrogen from heavy hydrocarbons which are greater than 95% purity. The Oxford process uses affordable, readily available catalysts to produce highly pure hydrogen with no oxygenated emissions.

Furthermore, using microwave technology significantly simplifies the hydrogen production process, which enables utilising the well-established infrastructure of petroleum.
The technology is expected to play a significant role in the future for on-board hydrogen production for automotive application. It could provide a safe and instant hydrogen supply solution and lead to a decarbonised transportation future.


Oxford University Innovation Ltd. has filed a priority patent application on the technology and welcome discussion with companies interested in licensing it for commercial development.

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