Patent applications for green hydrogen innovations have seen an unprecedented rise in the five years to 2021, reflecting the need for energy suppliers to produce more green hydrogen to support the transition to net zero by 2050.
Furthermore, innovation trends in this sector indicate that technologies for both hydrogen production and storage are advancing rapidly.
In green hydrogen production, patent filings went up from 62 in 2016, to 236 in 2021 (a 280% increase), with three notable areas of electrolysis seeing innovation. The fastest growing areas include: the use of an alkaline medium, both liquid and solid membranes, to transport hydroxide ions between electrodes; a polymer electrolyte membrane which produces hydrogen by combining protons and electrons, and innovation in solid oxide electrolysis.
New innovations to address the storage and transportation challenges posed by hydrogen – because of its low energy density per unit volume – aim to increase efficiency, maintain purity, and limit leakage.
Appleyard Lees partner and patent attorney Chris Mason said: “Hydrogen technology is rapidly advancing, with a growing number of existing and new players shaping its development. Its diverse technology areas, from transportation to energy storage and industrial processes, underscores its potential to transform our energy landscape.
“Successful innovation in developing green hydrogen will help to decarbonise major manufacturing industries such as iron and steel, while potentially providing an alternative to gas-fired domestic boilers – although the UK government has recently minimised the likely role of hydrogen for home heating
“Clearly, there remain considerable obstacles facing hydrogen, in both innovation production, storage and use, and consumer perception – and it is crucial to overcome these obstacles as hydrogen could play a key role in reaching net zero.”
Multinational companies including Mitsubishi, Air Liquide, Toyota and Tokyo Gas, are among the top global patent filers in hydrogen production. Other high filers include specialist hydrogen production start-up companies, such as Chinese firm Sungrow Hydrogen and South Korean firm Kwatercraft.