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
- 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.