Michel Saakes appointed as NHL Stenden Professor of Applied Sciences of Water-Smart Hydrogen

30 Sep 2021.

Dr Michel Saakes, the Wetsus electrochemistry enthusiast and coordinator for the research topic blue energy and resource recovery, will be sharing his expertise with the next generation. Saakes has joined NHL Stenden as professor of applied sciences in water-smart hydrogen and will continue a part of his research into sustainable energy storage here, focusing on research and education in the area of converting sea water into hydrogen gas, in other words, water-smart hydrogen.

Saakes’ appointment has been brought under a collaboration between NHL Stenden, Wetsus and the Centre of Expertise Water Technology (CEW) and is subsidised by the L.INT programme offered by the Taskforce for Applied Research SIA (a part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research).

The SIA described Saakes as an enthusiastic and extremely motivated professor with extensive experience. The long-standing, healthy collaboration between Wetsus, CEW and NHL Stenden in the field of water technology has proven to be a sound foundation for applied research into  seawater to hydrogen conversion.


Saakes particular research focus regarding the use of sea water to produce hydrogen gas is unprecedented and essential for once the production of hydrogen from water becomes feasible. Hydrogen gas can be produced from purified water and, at present, fresh water is the main source of the pure water needed. However, for large-scale production, this would put too much demand on our fresh water supplies. For instance, in the summer, when most energy surpluses are produced, fresh water is scarce as it is already used for many purposes from industry to agriculture and from drinking water to natural use. “We want to be able to produce hydrogen sustainably without threatening current drinking water supplies,” says Saakes. As seawater is widely available all year round, it’s a smart replacement for fresh water.

Research focus

Before seawater can be used sustainably to produce hydrogen, Saakes will need to research ways of generating hydrogen directly from sea water without producing toxic chlorine. He’ll also need to investigate sustainable alternatives for the rare metals such as platinum and iridium that are currently used for the electrodes. Saakes will work closely with NHL Stenden professor of applied sciences in Water Technology, Dr Luewton Agostinho so as to be able to complement each other’s work into membrane development for electrochemistry, nanotechnology and water purification.

Network in hydrogen technology

The collaboration between CEW, NHL Stenden and Wetsus creates a strong network of science, applied sciences, education and business in the hydrogen sector. The network will become the essential place for bachelor’s degree students, master’s students and researchers to work on state-of-the-art hydrogen technology, and the water-smart hydrogen professorship will contribute significantly to energy transition.

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