University of Brighton is part of a pilot project to create the world’s first clay bricks made 100% using green hydrogen energy rather than natural gas.
A trio of Brighton researchers – Dr Kevin Wyche, Doug Gregg and Dr Kirsty Smallbone – are involved in an initiative which could significantly reduce the huge climate impact of the construction industry worldwide.
As a key partner in the pioneering Hydrogen Sussex project to support the development of a low carbon hydrogen economy and help move the region towards Net Zero, the University of Brighton team have been working with local firm Michelmersh, the UK’s fourth-largest brick manufacturer. The Brighton researchers are focusing on measuring the impact on air quality of using hydrogen to fire bricks.
Overall CO2 emissions from UK brick making exceeds 1 million tonnes per year, and if the Sussex trial is successful, replacing natural gas with hydrogen in the brick-firing process could cut emissions from the industry by 80%.
Michelmersh currently produces 125 million bricks a year (out of a UK annual total of 1.9 billion), and production of so-called Hybricks will be tested at the company’s site in Danehill near Haywards Heath. Hybricks will be made using green electrolytic hydrogen – hydrogen that has been produced using renewable energy. The prototype Hybricks will then be tested under different heat and weather conditions to compare their performance to bricks made using natural gas.
Dr Kevin Wyche, Director of the Centre for Earth Observation Science, Environment and Public Health at University of Brighton, said: “Achieving net-zero is vital if we are to arrest the changes occurring in our atmosphere and to climate. To do this we need to begin to de-carbonise our industry, removing the reliance on fossil fuels. Switching to hydrogen in processes such as brick making will be a key part of this.”
Abigail Dombey, Chair of Hydrogen Sussex and Director of Net Zero Associates, said: “It’s incredibly exciting to be involved with the production of the world’s first 100% hydrogen-fired clay bricks. Construction is a huge contributor to carbon emissions so this environmentally-friendly innovation will play a vital role as a building block in our net-zero future.”
Michelmersh Innovation Director Sarah Le Gresley said: “This is an exciting and significant project that could make a huge difference to the environment not just in the UK but around the world. By pushing the boundaries to a whole new level, we can help the UK to become a world leader in sustainable manufacturing.”