Earthshot Prize technology: Electrolyser that produces hydrogen could change home heating

Makers given £1 million to mass produce the compact gadget

Vaitea Cowan, Enapter's co-founder, says the money will be used to mass produce the electrolyser. Photo: Earthshot Prize
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A compact electrolyser that turns renewable electricity into emission-free hydrogen gas and could transform how people power their homes and fuel their cars is among the innovative projects to be named winner of Prince William’s Earthshot Prize.

Created by Enapter, the device uses a technology that is tipped to change the fast-expanding sustainable energy sector.

It could pave the way to “make green hydrogen accessible for all”, according to the company's co-founder Vaitea Cowen.

She said the company, which was awarded £1 million ($1.37m) in prize money from the British prince's charity, would use the funds to “make green hydrogen accessible for all”.

“We have a technology that can make a significant impact on climate change and as we’re going into mass production the prize will support us,” she said.

Ms Cowen said the electrolyser produced non-polluting hydrogen gas as an alternative to fossil fuels. The gas can power cars and planes, as well as heating and cooling systems.

She said Prince William was “spot on” when he decided to award change-makers in the battle to reverse the damage caused by climate change.

“The time is now, there is no more time to waste,” said Ms Cowen.

“There is not only optimism, there is hope but there are also solutions and we can do this.”

Ms Cowen said a shift away from using fossil fuels and towards green forms of energy was “critical".

She said customers could simply connect the electrolyser to an energy set-up

“Our electrolysers are actually quite simple to use. One of our ambitions is to make a simple and easy-to-integrate electrolyser,” she told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

“You just plug it in, connect it into an energy set-up and you can easily produce on-site green hydrogen.”

The electrolyser is developed in Thailand by Enapter, a firm that has its headquarters in Germany.

According to Earthshot, funding will help to support mass production and develop the team’s engineering research.

Coral reefs, fertiliser and food hubs among Earthshot winners

Takachar, a portable machine created to turn agricultural waste into fertiliser, was also awarded £1 million.

The device, made in India, aims to offer farmers an alternative to burning their fields, which causes air pollution.

A project that aims to restore coral reefs in the Bahamas was also propelled into the spotlight by the prince’s awards scheme.

Sir David Attenborough pictured at the first Earthshot awards ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London on Sunday. Alberto Pezzali / Pool via REUTERS

Coral Vita, a project run by two best friends, uses tanks to grow coral up to 50 times faster than they normally take in nature.

A Costa Rican initiative to increase the number of trees was also named a winner.

Known as The Republic of Costa Rica, the project pays citizens to restore natural ecosystems. It has doubled the amount of trees in the Central American nation and aims to serve as a role model for others to follow.

Milan’s Food Waste Hubs, which aims to cut the amount of food being binned while tackling hunger, was also a winner.

The programme uses leftover foods collected in the Italian city to feed homeless and poor communities.

Prince William announced the five winners at a star-studded ceremony alongside his wife Kate at Alexandra Palace in north London on Sunday.

Sir David Attenborough was among those who attended a gathering broadcast on live television.

“Our five inspirational winners show that everyone has a role to play in the global effort to repair our planet,” he said.

“We need businesses, leaders, innovators and communities to take action.

“And, ultimately, we need all of us to demand that the solutions get the support they need

“Because the success of our winners is our collective, global Earthshot.”

Updated: October 18, 2021, 3:11 PM