European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Development of the most Cost-efficient Hydrogen production unit based on AnioN exchange membrane ELectrolysis

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CHANNEL (Development of the most Cost-efficient Hydrogen production unit based on AnioN exchange membrane ELectrolysis)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-06-30

The high cost of green hydrogen production via electrolysis currently represents the limiting step to fully enable the widespread conversion of excess electricity to chemical energy. Hydrogen is a flexible energy vector and is expected to play a vital role in the 'so-called' hydrogen economy, through sector coupling, including decarbonisation of industry, transport sector, and accelerate integration of renewables into the energy mix. It would also increase the European overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to higher industrial output and energy demand from renewable energy sources, thereby increasing industrial competitiveness in Europe.

Therefore, reducing the CAPEX and OPEX costs of electrolysers is the most important action in this field. In this regard, the EU-funded CHANNEL project aims at developing a cost-efficient, high pressure water electrolyser stack based on the emerging Anion Exchange Membrane (AEM) technology. This new technology can be a game-changer for the electrolyser industry as it combines advantages of both state-of-the-art technologies, Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) and diaphragm-based alkaline electrolysis, while compensating their drawbacks, in terms of cost and efficiency.

The main objective of CHANNEL is to design, construct and test a cost-efficient, 2 kW AEM water electrolyser stack and balance of plant able to operate at differential pressure. The electrolyser will be based on low-cost materials, including non-platinum group metal (non-PGM) electrocatalysts, porous transport layers and bipolar plates, performing at < 1.85 V per cell at 1 A cm-2, using diluted KOH electrolyte at a system capital cost of < 600 €/kW
Within the first 18 months of the project, the consortium has been working on:

(i) Optimisation and utilisation of advanced anion-conducting membranes and ionomers. Evonik's best-in-class materials (membranes and ionomer) were provided to the CHANNEL consortium at the beginning of the project and were used to establish the baseline for the catalyst and MEA development in the project. And concurrently, continuous membrane and ionomer development was carried out based on test results from the consortium, in attempt to further improve chemical and mechanical properties to fulfill the required technical properties for large scale AEM electrolysers implementation. Furthermore, efforts were made into process control of scaling-up synthesis and enable the production of polymers with very high molecular weight and yield.
(ii) Synthesis and optimization of cost-efficient, active and stable non-PGM catalyst for hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) and oxygen evolution reaction (OER) using simple and scalable synthesis methods. Both HER and OER electrocatalysts developed achieved stability and electrocatalytic activity comparable to the state-of-the-art, PGM-based electrocatalysts. When incorporated into the membrane electrode assembly in a single cell test, the full non-PGM electrolyser cell showed comparable results to the PGM-based electrolyser cell and higher stability, leading us to conclude that switching to non-PGM electrodes is a promising route for development of AEM electrolysis. In addition, a computational model of an AEM electrolyser was developed, which already has been used to simulate polarization curves and degradation over time under different operational scenarios.

(iii) Screening of low cost readily available materials for porous transport layers, bipolar plates, and current collectors: Several commercial materials based on Ni, stainless steel and Ti (coated and uncoated) from EU suppliers were screened for their suitability as electrolyser components using ex-situ accelerated corrosion test, while the most promising of these were investigated further in the electrolyser cell using best-in-class Evonik membranes. After rigorous testing, the consortium identified suitable materials for the cell and stack design.
(iv) In addition, the preliminary stack design was realized during this reporting period and components for the BoP were defined.
(v) Furthermore, a review of market state-of-the-art was performed, together with an analysis of possible market opportunities for the CHANNEL stack in comparison with the state-of-the-art technologies (PEM and AE). The most promising fields of application for the technology to be developed during the project were identified. In addition, a preliminary evaluation of the cost related to the CHANNEL stack prototype on a lab (2 kW) stage was also performed, in order to identify the most expensive components and possible strategies for cost reduction. The exploitation Plan was also established for the project during this reporting period.

(vi) And lastly, the dissemination and communication plan has been established to promote project's results, identify target audience or stakeholders and mechanics to reach them
The CHANNEL project aims at developing a 2 kW AEM stack that can operate < 1.85 V per cell at 1 A cm -2, using diluted KOH electrolyte at a system capital cost of < 600 €/kW.

Achieving this ambitious target would result in new standard for AEM water electrolysis stack designs, that can compete and possibly replace PEM and classical alkaline water electrolyser systems. The overall impact of the target would be: 1) Increasing TRL of AEM towards commercial maturity and 2) Proving the value proposition that AEM will significantly reduce the investment (25 % relative to Alkaline (AEL) and 40% relative to PEM) and hydrogen production costs.
Furthermore, the CHANNEL project will have significant contributions in the field of science and technology. CHANNEL will lead to increased fundamental understanding in design and operation of AEM electrolysis stacks. The project aims to implement some of the modelling activities in open-source platforms, providing the research community with new knowledge on how to best optimize AEM electrolyser.

The CHANNEL project sets a great foundation for the improvement of innovation capacity for the consortium. All partners have demonstrated a long-term commitment to the development and/or commercialization of their electrolyser technology/components. And, based on the results from CHANNEL and impact assessments, industrial partners will continuously optimize and improve their technology. When all the technical targets are met and desirable stack performance is achieved, partners will exploit the technology and create new market opportunities, both inside and outside Europe, creating new job opportunities.
During this reporting period, 48 people have been involved in the projects (39 researchers and 9 non-researchers), of which 40 % are females. The total number includes, two PhD students, 1 post-doctoral researcher and two industrial placement students from the University of St Andrews, Scotland.
project logo
channel graphic