The high cost of fuel in Jordan and an interest in renewable energy topics have inspired Jordanian engineering student Qais Sabra to design and invent a home solar-powered generator to fuel hydrogen-powered cars.
Jordan currently imports around 97% of its annual energy needs, Sabra said, and an invention like his could help reduce fuel consumption dramatically and generate savings for both the government and citizens.
Al-Shorfa met with Sabra, a student at the Jordan University of Science and Technology, to speak about the project and its significance.
Al-Shorfa : What was the genesis of the concept and how did it move into the design stage?
Qais Sabra : Since I began my engineering studies I have taken several courses on renewable energy, and have also constantly followed the latest developments in technology. In following the subject, it became apparent that while many auto manufacturing companies have begun producing hydrogen-powered cars, the high cost of establishing large refuelling stations for such cars was a challenge.
Hence the genesis of the idea of a home generator that enables anyone who wishes to own this car to refuel it at home at the lowest cost.
I began designing the generator and developing the concept last year after presenting the idea to several academics and experts at the university, who provided me with support to design it.
Al-Shorfa : How does the generator operate?
Sabra : The generator consists, firstly, of a module of photovoltaic cells, which captures the solar energy that is abundant in Jordan, then converts it into electricity to supply the generator with enough power to operate. By incorporating this module we dispense with expensive conventional fuel, and there is no additional cost to generating electricity from the sun. The module has a capacity of 800 to 1,000 watts.
The module is then connected to the home generator, which consists of a tank with sheets of negative and positive cells. The generator also has another part, namely a water source, and must be filled with specific amounts of water before it can be operated.
You then turn the generator on and the solar-generated electricity decomposes the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. A special part has been installed to separate and store the hydrogen in special cylinders -- made specifically for this purpose -- and the oxygen is disposed of.
The generator includes three storage cylinders, each with a capacity of 50 litres of compressed hydrogen. Next, a compressor is used to fuel the cars safely and soundly with the stored hydrogen.
Al-Shorfa : What percentage of energy does the generator save?
Sabra : The percentage of [energy] savings is very high. A car with a full tank of hydrogen fuel has a range of 600-700 kilometres. Moreover, filling the tank of a medium-sized car with conventional fuel, such as gasoline, costs 30-50 dinars ($42-$71) per filling, while the home hydrogen fuel generator requires only the cost of the water -- the electricity generated from solar power is free.
Al-Shorfa : How useful is this idea for Jordan?
Sabra : Jordan is a country that suffers greatly from a shortage of energy and imports about 97% of its annual energy needs. Thus, the existence of such generators would reduce fuel consumption dramatically and generate savings for both the government and citizens.
I think the government should offer special facilities for the import of these vehicles and encourage their use by citizens. Facilitating their entry into the country would increase demand, particularly since Jordan is dealing with the huge problem of the fluctuation in energy prices.
Al-Shorfa : How does the project help protect the environment?
Sabra : The invention plays a big role in protecting the environment because it uses clean energy to generate electricity, namely solar energy, and there are more than 330 sunny days a year in Jordan. The generator could also be designed to generate electricity using wind power harvested by wind turbines.
Moreover, there are no harmful emissions from the generator. The only emission from hydrogen cars is water vapour, which is released into the air.
Al-Shorfa : How much does the generator cost?
Sabra : The cost of the home generator ranges between 2,000 and 2,500 Jordanian dinars ($2,821-$3,526). But as demand increases and the concept gains wider acceptance the price will drop significantly.
The generator has a life span of 25 years and this [translates] into huge savings especially as no additional costs are incurred after installation other than water consumption. The generator will become available during the current year, God willing.
Al-Shorfa : What are you doing to protect the invention?
Sabra : I have started inquiring about the necessary steps to register a patent with the Ministry of Industry and Trade in Jordan after consulting experts on the subject, and I expect to achieve this soon.