FSEC Researcher Recognized for Inventions and Advances in Hydrogen Energy Research

April 3, 2017

Nazim Muradov standing next to a solar concentrator

Nazim Muradov, Ph.D. standing next to a solar concentrator at FSEC.

More than three decades ago, many young scientists aspired to solve the world’s energy problems with clean, alternative fuels. Yet only a handful of them considered hydrogen as a viable solution. One of those hydrogen believers was Nazim Muradov, Ph.D., of UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC).

This month, both UCF and the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) will honor Muradov for his work in hydrogen and alternative fuel sources. On April 5, Muradov will receive the Excellence in Research Award at UCF and then on April 6, he will be inducted as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in Boston.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for my achievements. I can’t express how proud I am that my research and efforts were recognized at that level,” Muradov said about his election to NAI Fellow status. “Of course, I have not been doing it alone. There’s a group of scientists here at FSEC, and we’ve all been working on projects.”

Muradov explained that for half of the 44 patents he holds through UCF, he was the lead or the sole inventor, and for the other half, he was a co-inventor. “So essentially, that recognition of me for the NAI is recognition of our teamwork,” he said.

The Hydrogen Movement

As a research professor of the Advanced Energy Research group at FSEC, Muradov investigates alternative fuel technologies, chemical conversion of solar energy and nanostructured carbon materials—all work related to hydrogen energy technology.

Originally from Baku, Azerbaijan, Muradov grew up in the former Soviet Union. “I remember I wanted to be a scientist, especially a chemist,” Muradov said. “I liked everything about chemistry–all the mystery of transformation, one chemical to another, sometimes with light effects, sometimes with a bad smell, but still okay (he grinned).”

Following the oil crises of the 1970s, Muradov decided to focus on hydrogen research to find alternative fuel solutions. “There was a lot of anxiety about the energy crisis. There were very gloomy predictions about the future. The Soviet press, I remember, said that an oil peak will come around the year 2000, and then the world will run out of oil quickly. After that, there will be global chaos. Wars will start [to compete] for the energy resources. That’s why many young scientists at that time moved to the energy research area, including me.”

Fortunately, the Institute of Petrochemical Processes in Baku, where Muradov worked, began a hydrogen program. The institute had him focus on photocatalytic hydrogen production because of his expertise in catalysis. “It was something that I wanted. They gave me an area of research that I really liked to do.”

Muradov credits hydrogen fuel research pioneer Turhan Nejat Veziroğlu, Ph.D., as a major influence in his career. “He is my mentor, and he is the one that inspired me a lot in my research life.” Together with colleagues, he started the hydrogen movement in the mid-1970s in response to the energy crisis. The so-called group of “Hydrogen Romantics” established the International Association for Hydrogen Energy (IAHE). Veziroğlu is now IAHE president and a professor emeritus at the University of Miami.

“All of my projects relate to hydrogen energy technology. It has essentially been the love of my life for almost 35 years,” Muradov said. In 1989, his passion for hydrogen research caught the attention of UCF’s Ali T-Raissi, Ph.D. who had established FSEC’s Hydrogen Research Laboratory a year earlier. Muradov was invited to join the FSEC hydrogen group, and in 1990 he moved his family to Florida.

Over the years, Muradov’s main areas of research have included thermocatalytic and photocatalytic hydrogen production systems, solar-powered water-splitting cycles, advanced biofuels, fossil fuel decarbonization, hydrogen sensors, and radiant detoxification of hazardous wastes. “Research gives you the opportunity to develop something new, to make some discoveries, to find new materials, to find new catalysts,” he said.

Current Projects

Today, Muradov continues his research in hydrogen production. He currently leads two projects. One, funded by the Office of Naval Research, focuses on the development of compact power generators for unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV). The Navy is looking for ways to keep its small, unmanned submarines on sea missions for several months; the existing battery technology only allows the UUVs to run for a few days. Muradov won the ONR funding by presenting a novel idea to produce hydrogen from seawater and then link it to a fuel cell to form a power generator. “According to my calculations, a mission duration could increase up to 6 months,” he said. Muradov is working on a prototype that the Navy can test at its facilities.

Muradov’s other research project focuses on producing hydrogen and oxygen via solar power using hybrid photo-thermochemical water-splitting cycle technology. The technology is unique in that it facilitates the storage of thermal energy, enabling round-the-clock operation. Muradov is working jointly with Texas A&M University under an award from the Qatar National Research Fund. The technical approach builds upon another, recent FSEC invention: Produce Hydrogen Fuel from Water Using Solar Energy.

Muradov emphasized that the teamwork at FSEC contributes significantly to its success. “When you write proposals and come back to research, it is extremely important to have good collaboration within a team. Fortunately at FSEC, we have a very good team of engineers and scientists.”

Besides his full-time work at FSEC and his after-hours activities with IAHE, Muradov uses his spare time to build the startup company, H2Litmus LLC, he founded to commercialize the innovative reversible hydrogen detection technology he invented. The invention is usable in space exploration, emission-free transportation, power plants and refineries. For example, as a specialized tape, the sensor changes color when it detects hydrogen (such as a fuel leak). Once removed from hydrogen exposure, the tape changes back to its original color and is ready to reuse.

Technology Available for License

Additional technology solutions developed by Muradov and colleagues are available for license and can be found here. To learn more about Muradov’s work at FSEC and additional potential licensing or sponsored research opportunities, contact John Miner at 407.882.1136.

For more information about hydrogen, and UCF’s advances in the field, refer to this month’s Patent Trending blog.