Research & Innovation - Participant Portal

TOPIC : Development of processes for direct production of hydrogen from sunlight

Topic identifier: FCH-02-3-2016
Publication date: 19 January 2016

Types of action: FCH2-RIA Research and Innovation action
Opening date:
19 January 2016
Deadline: 03 May 2016 17:00:00

Time Zone : (Brussels time)
  Horizon 2020
Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

The direct conversion of solar energy to hydrogen remains a fundamental goal for the forthcoming energy economy based on renewable sources. It is therefore important to develop new and less expensive technologies for obtaining hydrogen by water photo splitting using sunlight. These aims are fully based on the recommendations from the ongoing Green Hydrogen Study.

To bring photo-electrolysis to a commercially viable level, main efforts have so far been focused on the development of new photo-catalytic materials with high efficiencies at lower costs. Systems with relatively high efficiency are usually composed by expensive and often chemically unstable materials, while other less sophisticated systems do not yet have satisfactory yields. While benchmark materials have been established over the past few years, none of the materials is close to being optimised yet. In fact, a basic problem remains to be solved which is the development of both novel semiconductors with superior electronic properties and optimal potentials, additionally showing a high capability of absorbing the visible components of sunlight.

In order to further advance the technology towards the market, the materials research must be accompanied by development of reliable and highly flexible photo-electrolysis devices that operate at high solar-to-hydrogen-efficiencies and exhibit lower production costs. Advanced device engineering is required to maximise electrode performance, optimise the mass and current transfer characteristics, and prevent corrosion and photo-corrosion. An operative prototype with significant hydrogen production, able to consider the effect of variable solar illumination, has not been developed yet.


Aim of the project is the development of full technology (i.e. materials selection, prototype development, techno-economical evaluation) for direct water splitting from sunlight, followed by a demonstration of up scaling and the set-up of a prototype production equipment. A photo-electrochemical approach, employing either single-photo-electrode cells or tandem cells should be followed for this purpose. A pure photocatalytic approach cannot be excluded a-priori, but it should be clearly demonstrated to be applicable for the developed system.

Goals should be obtained considering a wide variety of solids, with particular attention to cheap and chemically robust systems (e.g. metal oxides, nitrides, Si-based materials). A preliminary screening using both theoretical (band gap and band energies calculations) and experimental tools (photosensitivity, charge separation capability) is required in order to identify suitable system to be tested in a true photocatalytic apparatus.

Proposals should also aim at the development of an innovative device that is able to overcome the limitations occurring in current state-of-the-art technologies. The new cell concept should be development based on optimized photo-catalysts to be suited for large-scale production processes, as demonstrated by a prototype system.

The proposals should put their main emphasis on following topics:

  • selection of materials with optimised photocatalytic properties
  • proof-of-concept for a new photo-electrolysis device concept for decentralised hydrogen production
  • demonstration of solar-to-hydrogen reliable and efficient conversion at demonstrator scale
  • investment cost for the new technology estimated by a socio-techno-economical assessment

Projects are expected to start at TRL 3 and to reach at least TRL 5.

Proposals should build upon experience and results from previously funded projects both on national and European level on component and system development.

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 2.5 million would allow the specific challenges to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected duration: 4 years

A maximum of 1 project will be funded under this topic.

Expected Impact:

A real proof of concept and not a simple benchmarking is mandatory as a result of the project.

Expected outcomes from the project are the following:

  • Full analysis (e.g. definition of materials, project of the system, BoP, effect of a variable solar irradiation, thermal management) of photocatalytic systems for direct hydrogen production from sunlight
  • A prototype system with an exposed surface higher than 10 m2 has to be developed with selected material, including full gas control (i.e. hydrogen and oxygen collection, purification, online analysis, storage, etc.) Optimized management of the prototype should be demonstrated
  • Specific targets to be obtained by the prototype system are the following:
    • H2 production demonstrated > 15 g/h or 10 KgH2 over the complete running time
    • Efficiency > 5 %
    • Running time > 6 months with a degradation lower than 10% under harsh operating conditions
    • H2 cost < 5 €/kg H2
  • The materials selected and most promising should be upscaled and proved through in-field testing
  • A cost analysis of the developed technology must be performed
Topic conditions and documents

Please read carefully all provisions below before the preparation of your application.

  1. List of countries and applicable rules for funding: described in part A of the General Annexes of the General Work Programme.
    Note also that a number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon 2020 projects (follow the links to China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Taiwan).

  2. Eligibility and admissibility conditions: described in part B and C of the General Annexes of the General Work Programme. The following exceptions apply (see 'chapter 3.3. Call management rules' from the AWP2016 and specific topic description):  'For some, well-identified topics it is therefore duly justified to require as an additional condition for participation that at least one constituent entity of the Industry Grouping or Research Grouping is among the participants in the consortium.'

    Proposal page limits and layout: Please refer to Part B of the FCH2 JU proposal template.
  3. Evaluation

    3.1  Evaluation criteria and procedure, scoring and threshold: described in part H of the General Annexes of the General Work Programme. As part of the Panel Review, hearings will be organised for Innovation Actions (IA) proposals. 

    3.2 Submission and evaluation process: Guide to the submission and evaluation process

  4. Indicative timetable for evaluation and grant agreement:

    Information on the outcome of evaluation: maximum 5 months from the deadline for submission.
    Signature of grant agreements: maximum 8 months from the deadline for submission.
  5. Provisions, proposal templates and evaluation forms for the type(s) of action(s) under this topic:

    FCH2 JU Research and Innovation Action (FCH2-RIA):

    Specific provisions and funding rates
    Proposal templates are available after entering the submission tool below.
    Standard evaluation form
    FCH2 JU Model Grant Agreement
    Annotated Grant Agreement

  6. Additional provisions:

    Horizon 2020 budget flexibility
    Classified information
    Technology readiness levels (TRL) – where a topic description refers to TRL, these definitions apply.
    Financial support to Third Parties – where a topic description foresees financial support to Third Parties, these provisions apply.

  7. Open access must be granted to all scientific publications resulting from Horizon 2020 actions, and proposals must refer to measures envisaged. Where relevant, proposals should also provide information on how the participants will manage the research data generated and/or collected during the project, such as details on what types of data the project will generate, whether and how this data will be exploited or made accessible for verification and re-use, and how it will be curated and preserved.

  8. Additional documents:

    FCH2 JU 2016 Work Plan
    FCH2 JU Multi Annual Work Plan
    FCH2 JU – Regulation of establishment
    H2020 Work Programme 2016-17: General Annexes
    Legal basis: Horizon 2020 - Regulation of Establishment
    Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Rules for Participation

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FCH2 JU members:

Industry Grouping, Hydrogen Europe

Research Grouping, N.ERGHY

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