Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a key building block for the further progress of the energy turnaround. For example, it can be used to store electricity generated from renewable sources or contribute to the creation of a climate neutral industry.

Exploiting this potential is the objective of the scientists at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. They work – together with other research institutions, industry and commerce – on solutions for the use of hydrogen. This includes the development of materials and components for electrolysis and fuel cells as well as the implementation of cross-sectoral approaches such as Power-to-X or Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU).

Do you have a problem or question on the subject of hydrogen? Then take a look at our competencies and services. Together we will find an application-oriented approach – be it within the framework of a publicly funded joint project or in the form of a direct commissioning or licensing agreement.

Please contact us at wasserstoff@umsicht.fraunhofer.de.

Competencies and services of Fraunhofer UMSICHT

Industrialization of hydrogen electrolysis

65 million tonnes of hydrogen are produced worldwide each year – 96 percent by natural gas steam reforming, 4 percent by water electrolysis. Background: Electrochemical hydrogen production is still less cost-effective than its fossil-fuel competition and is therefore only economical in niche markets. According to international climate protection experts, this is set to change in the future. They see the green hydrogen economy as a great problem-solving force.

Take Germany, for example. The large-scale production of hydrogen by means of electrolysis and its use in the energy and industrial system, together with sector coupling, herald the third phase of the energy transition. In practice, this means: Innovative electrochemical energy converters in Germany must be ready for application and the market by 2025 at the latest.

Hydrogen as an energy source

Known as electrolyzers, these are compact stacks of individual cells consisting of a specific combination of membrane, electrode, and catalyst layers. Various electrochemical reactions take place at the material composites. They convert electrical energy into hydrogen as an energy source or into chemicals such as syngas for the chemical and fuel industries.

This process is not currently economical due to high investment costs. Cost drivers are primarily expensive materials and their complex structure consisting of a large number of different layers. In order to make the technology competitive, central components of electrolyzers must undergo significant further development – both with regard to the materials and their structure and production.

New systems and materials for electrolysis

This is where Fraunhofer UMSICHT comes in: We are working on the industrialization of hydrogen electrolysis by developing and manufacturing new materials and systems – from catalysts and electrodes to fuel cells and stacks.

Research and development

  • Electro-catalyst development for hydrogen and co-electrolysis
  • Catalyst scale-up for downstream processes
  • Bipolar plates and electrode development
  • Seal-free stack concepts
  • High-pressure electrocatalysis

Services

  • Electrochemical testing of materials and electrodes
  • Production of test electrodes/material processing
  • Catalyst synthesis
     

Our strength: Hydrogen from a single source

The special feature: We supply green hydrogen from a single source and offer stack development from the material to the finished product. This includes the production of new catalysts either containing or free of precious metals as well as the retrofitting of existing catalyst systems. In addition, we develop electrodes that are tailored to the respective application. We use thermoplastic-based bipolar plates, which are produced cost-effectively in a continuous roll-to-roll process. Another advantage of the thermoplastic basis: We are able to weld stacks and build them without seals.

Hydrogen for cross-industrial applications

Hydrogen plays a key role in the implementation of cross-sectoral approaches such as Power-to-X or Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU). Optimal integration requires a systemic view in order to optimally integrate modular and adaptable system components and technologies into existing structures and value chains.

Towards a CO2-neutral industry

Fraunhofer UMSICHT develops solutions with nationwide significance and is involved in several regional networks such as the initiative IN4climate.NRW. Using innovation roadmaps, it aims to show ways towards a climate-neutral and sustainable basic materials industry in 2050 – while maintaining economic efficiency and competitiveness. In the Carbon2Chem® project, large-scale cross-industrial network solutions are being developed to link the steel, chemical and energy industries with the aim of defossilization. Decentralized systemic solutions at regional level are currently being identified in the DYNAFLEX® performance center: Within the Bad Langensalza industrial park, local facilities such as the municipal utilities will work together with the energy-intensive industry in the future.

Our strength: A view of the entire system

In all these cross-industrial projects, depending on the location and market conditions, a variety of solution arise, which can be tested, evaluated and modelled on a case-by-case basis. Fraunhofer UMSICHT offers wide expertise to identify location-specific system solutions and to develop new business models. Our services cover

  • Consideration of infrastructural aspects with evaluation of suitable transport options of pure hydrogen or a hydrogen carrier (road, rail, ship)
  • Scientific support in the implementation of cross-sectoral projects and project cooperation
  • Basic engineering for cross-industrial network systems
  • Concept and scenario development for the comparison of different network configurations and market aspects (prices, regulations, etc.)
  • Modelling and simulation of complex plant network configurations based on volatile material and energy flows as well as modelling of (gas) transport networks
  • Multi-criteria evaluation approaches (technology, economy, ecology and acceptance)
  • Digitalization approaches for data generation, monitoring and evaluation of complex cross-sectoral approaches
  • Assessment of licensing and safety aspects

Generating and using hydrogen

In addition to the systemic evaluations, Fraunhofer UMSICHT offers expertise for the development of hydrogen applications, production and handling. We are pleased to support you in the following topics:

  • Process development and catalyst screening for CCU applications (methanol, power-to-x process, hydrogenation)
  • Biological methanization
  • Hydrogen as substrate for biotechnological production processes
  • Compression of hydrogen using membranes
  • Production of hydrogen by gas cleaning of gas streams from gasification or pyrolysis of waste and/or biomass
  • Gas purification processes for tar separation and adsorption by PSA or ESA
  • Chemical and physical storage of hydrogen (e.g. formic acid, formates or hydrates)
  • Characterization of material compatibility with hydrogen (in the low temperature range) via DSC
  • Water treatment to provide high purity water for electrolysis

Hydrogen research at Fraunhofer UMSICHT

 

Carbon2Chem®

Carbon cycle

The Carbon2Chem® project is dedicated to the carbon cycle. The goal is to protect the climate through low-emission composite production in the steel and chemical industries.

 

"Electricity as a Resource"

Develop electrochemical processes

As part of the lighthouse project "Electricity as a Resource", researchers are developing and optimizing new electrochemical processes that synthesize important basic chemicals with renewably generated electricity.

 

DYNAFLEX®

Planning future-proof production systems

The aim of the DYNAFLEX® High-Performance center is to be able to plan future-proof production systems. They should be coordinated, adaptable, flexible and modular.

 

KONTIFLEX

Mass production of graphite bipolar plates

The project researches the development of continuous production of bipolar plates using roll-to-roll processes. Within the scope of the project, the world's largest bipolar plate has already been developed and produced.

 

KOBIBATT

Innovative fully welded bipolar battery

Space-saving, scalable and seal-free: Innovative, fully welded polymer-based bipolar battery for mobile and stationary applications increases energy density, avoids the risk of fire, and is cost-effective to manufacture.

 

SCI4climate.NRW

Research for a climate-neutral industry

SCI4climate.NRW shows ways towards a climate-neutral and sustainable industry in the year 2050. Cross-industrial solutions create synergies between different sectors.