‘Energy Systems is surrounded by an entire world that was entirely new to me’

Mechatronics engineer Benke Verhoef recently started working at Demcon, having completed his Master’s degree in Sustainable Energy Technology at Eindhoven University of Technology. He talks about Demcon Energy Systems, a new Demcon company, and the electrolyzer project, a technology he finds very interesting.

How did you come to be interested in Energy Systems?

For Benke, the new company Demcon Energy Systems was an important reason to start working at Demcon. ‘I am interested in the sustainability theme because it encompasses so much. Furthermore, I think that the world should become far more sustainable. Far too few environmentally conscious and sustainable choices are being made in the world of engineering. This is already evident in the design process, such as the choice of materials, but also in everything around us. Almost everything we use is manufactured and transported and that takes a tremendous amount of energy in various forms. Environmental and sustainability considerations are often addressed at the back of the chain, for example by recycling devices. I believe it is far more logical to design processes that are sustainable at the front end of the chain. Energy is very important in this respect. We must manage to acquire it in a sustainable manner and we must ensure minimum wastage.

Electricity, for example, plays a major role in this. Increasingly more high energy-consuming processes are being electrified, such as transport and heating. This means that energy demand is rapidly acquiring a different form. This represents a very interesting technological challenge. We already know many technologies that we can use to meet this demand for new energy. So now the trick is to make use of these technologies to supplement, expand and replace existing energy generation facilities and energy infrastructure. This way we can ensure that clean and renewable energy is deployed where necessary. At Demcon Energy Systems our objective is to develop technologies that will help facilitate the energy transition. I think that’s an excellent development. This way, with the help of engineering, we can work towards a world in which everyone has access to energy without negatively affecting the climate.’

Electrolyzer project

Electrolyzers have been around for at least a hundred years, although the innovation is only now really gathering steam. The question is how to ensure that it is useful for industry and other applications, and also how to make it profitable and efficient. Fortunately, increasingly more clean alternatives are gaining the upper hand, because it simply is a logical way of acquiring, storing and consuming energy. The really good thing is that this project touches on many disciplines, such as mechanical and electrical engineering, as well as chemistry and physics. It is tremendously interesting because it is surrounded by an entire world that up until now I did not know.’

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energy transition

more about the project.

Demcon is going to develop systems for the energy transition and has started working on developing the technology required for electrolyzers. A prototype is currently being built for this purpose. An electrolyzer is a device that converts electricity and water into hydrogen gas with a little bit of oxygen as a by-product. Hydrogen is the energy carrier; a method for storing, transporting and reusing energy. ‘This is a nice project, because I am learning all about hydrogen. I am immersing myself in the subject matter to see how it works, what we know – and don’t know – about it and what has already been done to date. Many questions arise during this experimental phase. Moreover, it is a cool piece of technology: connect a battery to a few electrodes in a beaker to create hydrogen bubbles. This is an old technology, but at the same time there are many things we still do not understand and that must be sorted out and developed.’