The issue of hydrogen production and storage plays a major role in the energy transition. A research project iniative named HYPOS is set to play a vital role in this transition. The project is a collaborative effort by the Research Center Jülich, of the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS and the Kumatec GmbH has set itself the goal of reducing the manufacturing costs of the electrodes and optimizing the performance of the electrolysis, the hydrogen production and storage to make it more marketable.

Reducing CO2 emissions requires a renewable energy-based energy supply. Electrolysis can use electricity from such sources to produce hydrogen that can be stored, used, or used as fuel. So far, two methods have been used: alkaline electrolysis and proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis – both technologies are currently in great need of development. A research project “Development of Performance Optimized and Cost Effective Electrode Structures for Alkaline Electrolysis (ELKE)” by HYPOS Hydrogen Power Storage & Solution East Germany, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Kumatec GmbH and Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Materials Systems IMWS has set itself the goal of optimizing the production of electrodes for alkaline electrolysis, thereby making the production of “green” hydrogen based on regenerative sources more economical.

In close cooperation with the partners, the reduction of the investment costs of alkaline electrolysis on a quadratic scale from the current 1000 € / kW to 700 € / kW in the future is to be achieved by optimizing the performance of the electrodes and reducing the cost of manufacturing processes. New material combinations and a modification of the electrode structure are in the foreground.

“To reduce costs, it is necessary to develop a continuous coating process for the selected materials. In collaboration with future users, we want to develop specifically improved electrodes for use in electrolysers with large active areas, “says Dr. Nadine Menzel, project coordinator at the Fraunhofer IMWS. A comparison with commercially available materials should demonstrate the potential of the new coating processes in terms of processability, functionality and cost reduction. Using new material combinations, the mass transport in the electrode is to be adapted to the requirements of a regenerative power grid. The functionality of the layers and their structure and action relationships are analyzed and optimized by means of imaging techniques such as scanning or transmission electron microscopy. Likewise, a cell scale electrochemical characterization is performed to obtain more detailed results for optimal coating. A further cost reduction can be achieved by a »scale-up« of the coating technique in the square meter scale. The participating plant manufacturers and stack manufacturers will finally characterize the new electrode structures in real operation.

“At the end of the project, new electrodes will be available to reduce costs for next-generation alkaline electrolyzers through cheaper materials and suitable coating processes. Nevertheless, we want to achieve a comparable performance and long-term stability. The electrodes produced are to be integrated into the electrolysis systems of the participating industrial partners and tested in real operation under varying operating conditions. ”