INCOME project: reducing cost and catalyst use in PEM hydrogen production

14-07-2020 | New Project | P2Hydrogen

INCOME project: reducing cost and catalyst use in PEM hydrogen productionAs part of VoltaChem's program line Power-2-Hydrogen, the new INCOME project focuses on improving the economic aspects of hydrogen production through PEM electrolysis. It explores novel electrode architectures for reducing cost as well as catalyst use. The project is carried out in cooperation with companies Magneto Special Anodes and Hydron Energy. It is the first project in a new Shared Research Program on industrialization of electrolyzer technology that VoltaChem is developing.

For future hydrogen production, reducing the cost of electrolysis is crucial. This requires important improvements in the promising technology of Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) electrolyzers. Currently expensive materials are used to guarantee a sufficiently long life span of components such as membranes, electrodes and catalysts. Using inherently cheaper materials, and making more effective use of materials, will make substantial contributions to cost reduction of PEM technology.

This is the background of the new INCOME project that aims to develop novel, innovative electrode architectures for PEM. "The focus is on the porous transport layer as well as the iridium catalyst", says TNO project coordinator and scientist PEM electrolysis at VoltaChem Paige Shirvanian. He explains that the new transport layer design focuses on a minimal resistance for both gas and liquid to and from the electrode, as well as optimal electrical contact with the catalyst particles. In the project, MAGNETO Special Anodes and TNO will develop different architectures of the porous layer. These are characterized by TNO and Hydron Energy in an electrochemical cell to gain insight into the relationship between architecture and cell performance. MAGNETO also optimizes the corrosion resistance of the chosen solution based on its knowledge of corrosion and material deposition. For Adriaan Jeremiasse, manager Research and Development at MAGNETO, developing the improved porous transport layer is "an exciting application" of its expertise in titanium electrode manufacturing. "This project enables us to design and validate the improvements”, he explains.  

Reducing iridium use

Regarding the use of iridium, it will be investigated how alternative deposition technologies can lead to substantially decreasing the use of this quite scarce element. "We have to work towards at least a 40fold reduction", says Shirvanian. "There simply isn't enough iridium. Current state-of-the art in PEM technology requires 500 kilos of iridium for a gigawatt electrolyzer, whereas the annual world production is just 9000 kilos. If we don’t reduce the amount of iridium used, scaling up electrolyzer technology will overload the supply chain and the price will skyrocket."

In fact, the iridium issue is one of the core topics of a Shared Research Program (or SRP) on the industrialization of electrolyzer technology that VoltaChem is currently developing. "It's not just iridium but all scarce platinum group metals, or PGM, that pose a problem to industrialization of electrolyzer technology", says Jochen Löffler, program manager Power-2-Hydrogen at VoltaChem. "That's why the SRP aims at novel technologies to achieve ultra-low PGM use, and at a circular design that facilitates recycling. Adding to this it will support fundamental research towards fully PGM-free technologies." 

The new SRP will focus on all aspects that hamper scale-up and industrialization of electrolyzer technology, Löffler adds. It is built around the expertise on materials, manufacturing technology, device integration and characterization/validation, and the available infrastructure - in particular the Faraday Lab. "We focus on pre-competitive cooperation where we bring together the value chain. While we already see a short-term request from companies to validate their materials and components, we aim to enable the innovations that are needed to bring this technology forward. The INCOME project is a nice example of the type of cooperation we aim for, in this case between a component manufacturer, a stack manufacturer, and ourselves."


Contact

Would you like more information on the Shared Research Program on industrialization of electrolyzer technology that VoltaChem is currently developing? Please contact Lennart van der Burg, business developer Power-2-Hydrogen.


Additional reading 

In a recent open access paper in Electrochemistry Communications, VoltaChem researchers Paige Shirvanian and Frans van Berkel reported on the challenges and future needs in development of PEM water electrolyzers:

Paige Shirvanian & Frans van Berkel: Novel components in Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) Water Electrolyzers (PEMWE): Status, challenges and future needs. A mini review. Electrochemistry Communications, Volume 114, May 2020. DOI: 10.1016/j.elecom.2020.106704

 

 

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