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Decarbonizing the industry: Air Liquide announces the three winners of its Scientific Challenge

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Air Liquide has selected the three winners of its 2023 Scientific Challenge, out of 119 proposals from 29 countries. This 3rd edition of the Scientific Challenge aimed at identifying and accelerating the development of innovative solutions for the decarbonization of industrial ecosystems, in an open innovation approach. The laureates’ projects will receive funding from Air Liquide to develop their proposed solutions and to transform them into market-ready technologies.

Can LI, Davidson School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University, USA, is the Laureate of the “Data sharing for decarbonization” topic. The sharing of data between the different stakeholders of an industrial basin using the same utilities connected by physical networks is crucial to meet shared sustainability targets. Can LI’s proposal focuses on the development of algorithms facilitating data sharing, ensuring transparency as well as data privacy and security, to achieve industrial optimizations and reduce CO2 emissions.

Luis Miguel MADEIRA, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto, Portugal, is the Laureate of the “Energy storage using Essential Small Molecules” topic. Renewable energies are intermittent by nature. To ensure their widespread adoption and contribute to the decarbonization of the energy sector, it is essential to develop new ways of storing and reusing electricity, using Essential Small Molecules. Luis Miguel MADEIRA’s project focuses on a new technology development based on an innovative cyclic system, to produce methane (CH4) as an energy carrier, from industrial captured CO2 and renewable hydrogen (H2).

Enrico TRONCONI, Department of Energy, Politecnico di Milano, Italy, is the Laureate of the “Electric Heating for Hydrogen (H2) production” topic. One way of decarbonizing hydrogen production would be to electrify the heat generation required for steam-methane reforming. Yet achieving the reaction temperature (800°C) with electric power is a challenge. Enrico TRONCONI’s proposal consists in a new technological solution enabling an efficient electrified Steam Methane Reforming process. Based on a new conductive device harnessing the resistive heating, this solution helps reduce the energy consumption and the CO2 emissions of the hydrogen production process.

The three laureates were selected by a Jury of 8 members, headed by Air Liquide Vice-President Research & Development Jérôme Christin. It included in particular Professor Isabelle Ryl, Director of PRAIRIE at INRIA (PaRis Artificial Intelligence Research InstitutE), and Professor Steven Chu, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics, former US Secretary for Energy, Professor at Stanford University, USA.

The three winners of the Scientific Challenge will receive the “Air Liquide Scientific Prize” endowed with 50,000 euros. In addition, their scientific works will be supported by Air Liquide expertise and equipment, as part of a 3-year partnership, in order to develop their innovative proposals and to transform them into market-ready technologies.

Armelle Levieux, member of Air Liquide’s Executive Committee and Vice President of Innovation, stated:

The Air Liquide Scientific Challenge has generated strong interest from the worldwide scientific community. This illustrates the relevance of our open innovation approach. Previous editions led to fruitful collaborations with our academic partners, materializing in scientific publications, patents and even the creation of start-ups. This new edition will contribute to accelerating the development of pioneering technologies to promote progress and the transition to a low-carbon society, in line with Air Liquide's ADVANCE strategic plan.