The CSIRO has developed a thin metal membrane which separates pure hydrogen from ammonia and other chemicals, opening up the possibility of large-scale safe transportation of hydrogen for applications such as fuel cell vehicles.

Currently, hydrogen is difficult to transport over long distances because of its extremely low density. One of the bast ways of transporting hydrogen is as ammonia. The CSIRO’s technology could be used to convert the ammonia back into pure hydrogen, with just inert nitrogen as the by-product.

Hydrogen is seen by many as an ideal fuel for vehicles because only water is produced when it is burned. It is already being used as the fuel for taxis in South Korea and Japan has announced its intention of becoming a “hydrogen society” as it shifts away from nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall sees the potential for Australia to develop a large hydrogen export industry in the growing global market for clean hydrogen. Australia has a huge solar and wind renewable energy resource and this technology could the means of exporting this energy to countries such as Japan and South Korea which have high demand by limited resources.

The technology is currently undergoing pilot testing. Demonstrations in places such as Japan could begin in 18 months.