Actuation Lab receive government support to develop revolutionary leak‑free hydrogen hardware

Following extensive R&D work in the flow control sector, Actuation Lab have been awarded a £218,000 contract by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to tackle one of the biggest issues holding back the sustainable transition to hydrogen. 

Hydrogen leakage represents a serious issue for the hydrogen supply chain, as hydrogen leaks much faster than natural gas, of which it’s estimated 80 million tonnes is lost to atmosphere every year. 

As hydrogen has a low ignition energy and a global warming potential 11x that of CO₂, we cannot sustainably transition to hydrogen use at scale without some clever innovation in the equipment used to distribute it. 

This is notably true of valves. Traditional valves have a “stem”, a shaft that connects the internal valve to a handle or actuator that opens and closes it. Up to 50% of fugitive emissions from industrial processes are estimated to come from worn valve stem seals. If this same dated valve technology is applied to the growing hydrogen supply chain, the rate of leakage will be significantly higher owing to greater ease of hydrogen escape. 

The aim of Actuation Lab is to get rid of the components of traditional hardware that wear out, and to replace them by mechanisms designed to last a lifetime and eliminate emissions. 

The Bristol-based start-up is developing the Dragonfly Valve, whose origami-inspired design removes all the leak paths found in traditional valves, reducing emissions to nil. 

As part of the Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply 2 competition – Stream 1 Phase 1, the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has awarded Actuation Lab £218,000 to carry out a feasibility study and develop the Dragonfly Valve for hydrogen supply. 

CEO Simon Bates said “Hydrogen has the potential to help us completely decarbonise our hard-to-electrify sectors, but only if we can stop it from escaping. As well as advancing our technology, this government support is allowing us to work with the energy industry and research institutions to define the scale of the challenge that hydrogen leakage will present in a decarbonised world, and how to best address it through hardware innovation.” 

Progress is being made through partnerships with other leading companies in their fields: 

  • the National Physical Laboratory, who are studying hydrogen leakage rates from current valves and exploring the suitability of materials for carrying hydrogen, 
  • Hieta, who are running a pioneering study into metal 3D printing for hydrogen-ready components, 
  • DNV, who provide technology qualification and certification planning services, and have allowed Actuation Lab access to their Spadeadam fire, explosion and blast test facility in Cumbria. 

The team at Spadeadam

This project runs alongside the collaboration between Actuation Lab and the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, with the support of the Net Zero Technology Centre, that focuses on innovative actuation techniques for the Dragonfly Valve. 

Both initiatives will advance the technical and commercial readiness of the Dragonfly Valve and facilitate the building of a consortium of innovative manufacturers and trial partners in the UK hydrogen sector to demonstrate the technology in 2023–2024. 

If you’d like to know more about the Dragonfly Valve and the investment opportunities offered by Actuation Lab, browse the Actuation Lab website or email 

Hydrogen piping