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INSIDE Report Summary

Project ID: 621237
Funded under: FP7-JTI
Country: Germany

Periodic Report Summary 1 - INSIDE (In-situ Diagnostics in Water Electrolyzers)

Project Context and Objectives:
The development routes for each of these three technologies water electrolysis are not directly linked to each other, hence the project may be considered similar to three parallel individual projects. Consequently, there are separate similar objectives for each technology.

The objectives are
- Design and construction of an online diagnostics tool for proton exchange membrane based water electrolysis (PEMWE)
- Design and construction of an online diagnostics tool for alkaline water electrolysis (AE)
- Design and construction of an online diagnostics tool for anion exchange membrane based water electrolysis (AEMWE)
- Definition of testing protocols and of accelerated stress tests (AST) for water
- Comparison of online-monitoring data from the diagnostics tools with ex-situ data on degradation, and correlation of observables
- Evaluation of testing protocols and ASTs for water electrolysers
- Dissemination of mechanisms learned from online in-situ diagnostics
- Recommendations for operation of present and design for future electrolysers

Design and construction are planned with three iteratively optimised generations of the diagnostics tool for each of the three technologies. The development times for each generation are about 6-8 months.

The objectives of designing the diagnostics tools for the AE route and the AEMWE route could be achieved within the first period.
The design of the diagnostics tool for the PEMWE route could not be achieved. (see chapter 2.1)
The definition of test protocols was achieved. They will, however, require revision most probably, for it was not possible to gather information about proven test protocols, yet. The European commission has started a dedicated activity to harmonised testing protocols.

Project Results:
Overarching Activities

Test protocols for water electrolysers were set up as starting point for evaluated protocols for both unified performance testing and accelerated stress tests. At the present status, several conditions are known that are not only stressful, but critical to electrolyser systems, e.g. dead stopping. These conditions are, obviously not suitable for the stress test of a running system.
With the online diagnostics tools present or to be manufactured, it is possible to approach hazardous conditions very diligently without going to immediately critical modes.

Main Results for the PEMWE route

Proton exchange membranes have been developed for electrolytic chlorine production at the first place and were put into another focus of interest as solid ion conductors for fuel cells. In contrast to higher temperature fuel cell technologies, the PEM based fuel cell can be carried out with a very high gravimetric and volumetric power density, ideal for mobile applications. Similar principles apply to PEM based water electrolysis. They can be operated very dynamically, with the drawback of high cost for PGM catalysts.
The technology for in-situ diagnostics was successfully transferred from PEM fuel cells to PEM water electrolysers in a lab-size single test cell and can be transferred to industrial size stacks with relatively little technological adaptations.

Main Results for the AE route

Alkaline water electrolysis is the most mature technology amongst the three. Its robustness, reliability, cast and energy efficiency make this technology the most attractive for industrial applications with the goal of hydrogen production. It has been under constant development for decades, but yet inside data are of relevance for further developments.
As of the time of his report, a design for the 1st prototype of the diagnostics tool for a NEL type development size electrolyser has been fixed.

Main Results for the AEMWE route

Anion exchange membranes are a very recent topic, both for fuel cell and water electrolyser technology, and the potential for targeted developments is immense. The technology combines some advantages of the PEMWE technology with relatively inexpensive catalyst materials.
As of the time of his report, the 1st prototype of the diagnostics tool for a purchasable AEM water electrolyser is present and ready for testing.

Ex-situ Characterisation

The developments towards in-situ monitoring are accompanied by ex-situ investigations to be able to correlate ageing mechanisms to monitored operation conditions. Pre-investigations with spectroscopic (near ambient pressure XPS, XRD) and microscopic methods (SEM, AFM, STEM) have been started. A near ambient pressure XPS setup for measurements under electrochemical cycling was built up.
A new stabilization mechanism in a Ru-Ir anode was uncovered by investigating the anode surface of an operating PEM electrolyser.

Further information and most recent news can be found on the project website

Potential Impact:
Introduction and Expected Results

The R&D project INSIDE pursues the development of diagnostics tools for three independent technologies for water electrolysis with individual properties and individual challenges. This development will provide operational data from inside the electrolyser systems. Conventional current-voltage characteristics, impedances and materials analytics before and after operation are not able to
provide the same type and quality of data as an in-situ tool for on-line diagnostics. It is based on an existing technology, which has been successfully used in the research on polymer electrolyte fuel cells, for materials development, for optimisation of operation condition, and for prevention of undesired events, such as local flooding of parts of a fuel cell, which can be directly monitored.

The aim is to use these diagnostics tools for online monitoring with the possibility for online adaptation of operational parameters, and for the prevention of hazardous operation modes while optimising the overall performance. At the end of this project, there will be a public document with summary recommendations for the operation of present electrolysers and for the targeted development of future electrolysers – but this will not be the end of the usability of these new diagnostics tools.
In particular, online monitoring is a key technology for the application of water electrolysers in a highly fluctuating electricity market in Europe as grid stabilising highly dynamic systems, which does not dump power, but transforms excess electricity into hydrogen, a storable, transportable power source. Moreover, electrolysis of water represents a decentralised technology to provide local hydrogen refuelling stations for e.g. electromobility with the fuel cell car.

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