Newtrace, a company founded in 2021 by PhD engineers Prasanta Sarkar and Rochan Sinha, has found a technique to make green hydrogen generation at least five times more affordable than current practices.
Prasanta Sarkar and Rochan Sinha returned to India after nearly ten years of study and employment in Europe to discover their home towns to be dirtier, more polluted, and more vulnerable to unexpected, intense flash floods than before.
Prasanta has always been attracted by energy, machinery, and hardware because his father worked for ONGC, the largest crude oil and natural gas firm in India. While completing his studies in the Netherlands, Rochan, who came from a family of doctors, had previously engaged in creating technologies for renewable energy systems including solar fuel devices. With problems in their hometowns on their thoughts, meeting in the headquarters of Entrepreneur First, a worldwide network that connects company founders, was practically by chance, especially given their synchronized histories.
“We realized these problems were happening now because of climate change, and we couldn’t afford to wait another 10 years to do anything about it,” Prasanta says, adding that the two hit it off right away, inspired by their desire to confront the climate catastrophe.
The two founders began working together to develop new battery and electrolyzer technology for businesses that was both inexpensive and widely available. They only realized they were onto something major after producing the electrolyzer for a far lower price than what was available on the market.
They then planned to use it to produce green hydrogen and established NewTrace in October 2021.
Why is green hydrogen important?
Among its numerous applications, hydrogen is critical in the refining of oil, the formulation of fertilizers, and the manufacturing of steel.
According to an International Energy Agency research, the bulk of the hydrogen generated globally today is from natural sources such as gas or coal, which emits 900 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the environment.
You can’t live without hydrogen since it’s so important in the oil, steel, food, and fertilizer industries, but you can’t live with it either. However, there is a solution to lessen these emissions: manufacture “green hydrogen,” which is hydrogen derived from cleaner sources, renewable power, and water. Green hydrogen is created by a process known as ‘electrolysis,’ which divides water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules.
The issue is that, while this is a far cleaner and more sustainable technique of manufacturing hydrogen, it is also highly costly, inefficient, and difficult to scale.
This is the problem Prasanta and Rochan set out to solve: making green hydrogen generation more affordable, efficient, and scalable.
The electrolyzer technology they’d developed gave them a starting point. They hypothesized that in order to reduce the costs of producing green hydrogen, they would have to forego pricey materials and components. The electrolyser they eventually designed achieved just that, and even went one step further by utilizing 70% less materials than its traditional equivalent.
The final product was less expensive, more simply deployable, and could be mass-produced without human interaction.
“Our electrolysers are 5X less expensive than current commercial systems, and they also improve efficiency and hydrogen production capacity,” Prasanta explains.
Green hydrogen, which is approximately 50% cheaper, is nearly as expensive as natural gas and coal-based hydrogen, he says.
From the current range of $2.5 to $6 per kilogram, the creators hope to lower this to $1 per kilogram by 2027.
In essence, Newtrace offers a few more value-added services, such as maintenance, along with its patented, patent-pending electrolysers to businesses wishing to establish their own green hydrogen production facilities.
Prasanta says that their electrolysers, which now cost $1,000 per kilowatt, may instantly result in a nearly 5X savings in capital and operational expense for businesses upon implementation.
The firm, which has already received $1 million in pre-seed capital from Speciale Invest and Micelio Fund, is not yet making money. In order to test and implement its technology, it claims to be in advanced talks with top Indian and international oil refining corporations.