The impetus to make hydrogen technology more affordable has never been greater as Germany strives to become more energy- and resource-independent. The cost of electrolysers – for splitting water to produce hydrogen and oxygen – remains high, largely because of the need for expensive and increasingly scarce precious metals. This has brought a consortium of scientists from Germany and New Zealand together to develop resource-saving and cost-effective new industrial processes.
The HighHy project, launched earlier this month by the University of Bayreuth, the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM) and the universities of Canterbury, Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, will focus on using nickel and manganese in place of the rare metal iridium as the catalyst materials in AEM electrolysers. The partners have received funding of around EUR 240,000 from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for three years, in response to a funding call in June.
AEM electrolysis is a promising but nascent technology based on anion exchange membranes, but its development has been held back by the insufficient speed of the oxygen evolution reaction. If the reaction is too slow, it has a detrimental effect on the overall hydrogen yield, which is why the process is still not industrially viable.
The HighHy partners aim to develop highly active catalysts that ensure the oxygen evolution reaction takes place at the right pace. High performance anodes will be designed – using non-critical materials – and tested directly in operation under real working conditions.
"I very much hope that we will succeed in getting young scientists in Germany and New Zealand interested in electrochemical energy technologies," comments the Bayreuth project coordinator Professor Christina Roth in a