In the dynamic landscape of energy technologies and specifically in hydrogen production, the ColdSpark® project is making strides towards the industrial scaling-up of a simple and effective methane cracking technology to receive two valuable products: hydrogen and elemental carbon. The exploring of exploitation pathways for carbon in the ColdSpark® technology is particularly important, especially when considering economic sustainability and competitiveness in comparison to other technologies.

As a result of the ColdSpark® methane cracking process, for every kilogram of hydrogen produced, almost three kilograms of carbon are generated. The challenge lies in ensuring that the surplus carbon is separated and utilised effectively.

Highly valuing the opportunity for carbon application, the ColdSpark® project team is carrying out a comprehensive analysis of the carbon samples received. It is conducted by the University of Stavanger team led by Prof. Sachin Chavan. For the analysis, a multitude of advanced and routine techniques and protocols are used to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the carbon’s structure, texture, composition, and physical and chemical properties, meeting standards set by ASTM International or similar.

The current results from the analysis of the carbon samples produced during the lab-scale ColdSpark® methane cracking process show a very high-purity carbon, which application may vary. The current market dynamics suggest two primary pathways for carbon utilisation according to Prof. Chavan:

  • Industry Applications: The first data received hold promise for applications in the metal and tire industries, serving as a sustainable alternative to conventional carbon sources. Industries such as tire manufacturing and metal production require carbon in substantial volumes. The process aims to cater to these sectors, providing a significant market for bulk carbon.
  • High-Quality Applications: Sectors like batteries and other applications demanding high-quality carbon with high purity, though niche, hold a very high importance. However, the market size for such applications may not be as substantial as bulk industries.

Some other diverse applications of ColdSpark®’s carbon, however, extend beyond traditional sectors adding several diverse applications and additional areas of interest, which should be further investigated:

  • Carbon Concrete: Ongoing research explores the incorporation of carbon into cement mixtures, aiming to reduce CO2 emissions in concrete production, a significant contributor to carbon footprints in the construction sector[1].
  • Quantum Dots: The fine, small-sized carbon produced may find applications in many fields including biomedicine, catalysis, optoelectronic devices, and anticounterfeiting, presenting opportunities for application of the carbon received in advanced technologies.

Beyond the initial carbon products, as Prof. Cavan emphasises, there lies an opportunity for post-processing to change the carbon form. This opens paths towards the production of speciality carbon, potentially tapping into niche markets and further contributing to economic sustainability.

The environmental implications of ColdSpark®’s technology are noteworthy. The eCarbon® produced by ColdSpark® holding an already registered trademark presents an eco-friendly alternative for industries currently reliant on coal, mitigating methane emissions and contributing to a lower CO2 footprint. The production of low CO2 hydrogen aligns with the broader goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is supplemented by the production of solid carbon which shares the same low CO2 footprint, creating a win-win scenario for both hydrogen and carbon applications.

As the ColdSpark® project progresses and the scientific team optimised the process for large-scale industrial application, challenges and expectations can emerge at every step. While the current focus is on elemental carbon, as Prof. Chavan explains, the optimisation process may yield variations in carbon quality. Thus, the scalability of the process remains a critical aspect that could influence the final characteristics of the carbon produced.

ColdSpark®’s exploration of carbon exploitation pathways stands at the successful and optimised combination of innovation, economic viability, and environmental responsibility. The project’s commitment to optimising hydrogen production process and at the same time ensuring the applications of valuable carbon produced position it as a significant and promising solution in the dynamic development of diverse methods for sustainable energy production.

In ColdSpark®, collaboration, expertise, and continuously attracting highly qualified scientists play a crucial role, especially in addressing challenges related to the collection and isolation of fine carbon particles. We continuously welcome contributions from experts in the field to refine the process and enhance the project’s overall success so don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to take part in this exciting journey.