Patents for green hydrogen technology on the rise: IRENA

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.

A joint study published today (12 May) by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the European Patent Office (EPO) uses patent statistics to reveal the trends and dynamism in the field of hydrogen that can be produced using renewable electricity via electrolysis.

Innovation trends in electrolysers for hydrogen production shows that patent filings for hydrogen production technologies have grown on average by 18% each year since 2005.

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.

The demands for cleaner energy have never been greater. Although patent filings show a steep increase, 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, today’s report is useful to technologists, companies and investors wanting to better understand these rapidly expanding technology domains.

Zohaib Ali

Zohaib is the editor of H2 Bulletin. Please click on the email icon to contact me if you want to talk about a news.
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