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27 January, 2022 - 17:04 By Tony Quested

Levidian and National Grid LOOP into world-first hydrogen play

National Grid is to trial a game changing Cambridge decarbonisation device designed to turbocharge the UK’s access to hydrogen for gas supply.

LOOP has been created by ClimateTech firm Levidian in Cambridge – a company that has been at the forefront of graphene production since 2012.

National Grid is to deploy LOOP as part of world-first research designed to boost the UK’s ability to transport and use hydrogen – the clean fuel of the future.

Levidian says the pioneering plasma technology locks carbon away in high quality graphene, which could be used to reinforce the existing grid.

The latest project follows £12 million private investment in Levidian as it steps up plans to revolutionise the scale and accessibility of decarbonisation.

LOOP uses plasma technology to separate methane into its constituent atoms: carbon, locked into high-quality graphene, and hydrogen – which can either be used immediately or stored for future use.

Backed by Network Innovation funding, the project could allow National Grid to reinforce parts of the gas pipe network by using graphene as corrosion-resistant internal coating, making it more able to carry increased quantities of hydrogen and less likely to crack.

Reinforcing the network using graphene – a honeycomb of carbon atoms so thin it is considered two-dimensional – could increase the country’s ability to transport and access clean hydrogen, allowing existing infrastructure to be repurposed, minimising disruption and making the switch to hydrogen easier for consumers and businesses.

John Hartley, chief executive of Levidian, said: “Levidian’s mission is to enable a decarbonised future fuelled by hydrogen, built on graphene.

“LOOP can deliver that vision, decarbonising existing energy sources and enabling our existing network to carry hydrogen through the power of graphene. The National Grid programme will showcase LOOP in action now as we scale the technology this year and into the future.”

Antony Green, Hydrogen Director, at National Grid added: “While gas will remain critical to underpinning the UK’s drive to net zero emissions, we will leave no stone unturned in terms of reducing carbon emissions while ensuring reliable supplies to consumers.

“Graphene could be a key component in allowing us to repurpose our transmission assets, minimising disruption to consumers and reducing the overall costs of converting our transmission network to hydrogen as work towards net zero.”

National Grid will also be trialling LOOP’s ability to reduce the combustion CO2 potential of the nation’s gas on a larger scale. When run through the device, natural gas is replaced with a hydrogen-methane mix with no loss of energy potential.

With heating, cooking and other industrial processes accounting for 37 per cent of the UK’s CO2 emissions, the project represents a huge opportunity to make progress on National Grid’s aim of increasing the amount of hydrogen used across the country, which, in contrast to natural gas, produces only water vapour when burnt.

As part of the LOOP process, the hydrogen-methane mix – produced alongside graphene – can be delivered in any proportion, including pure hydrogen, to match the capabilities of the network or combustion equipment it is supplying. 

The technology docks easily with existing energy infrastructure at any site in the world with a supply of natural gas, including industrial sites, large businesses, housing developments, hospitals, or waste disposal facilities.

The trial follows ten years of research and development into hydrogen and graphene production from Professor Krzysztof Koziol, following the company’s spin-out from world-leading nanomaterial development labs at Cambridge University, focusing predominantly on graphene.

Since December 2020, Levidian has raised over £12 million in private funding to fund the next stage of plans to revolutionise the scale and accessibility of decarbonisation, with investment led by British businessman Jamie Edmiston. 

Further investment rounds are planned for 2022 as LOOP devices are scaled for high-impact deployment, including on sites with large amounts of waste methane such as anaerobic digestion facilities.

From rubber and polymer manufacturers, to leading battery technology and construction, Levidian’s graphene has the potential to reshape efficiency, strength and endurance – and the company says it has only just started to scratch the surface of global potential for the technology.

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