As renewably sourced, clean energy becomes increasingly important in the transition to a more circular economy, green hydrogen has suddenly jumped into the picture. Yet more than just fuel, it can also serve as a raw material for the chemical industry.
Green hydrogen is produced from water by electrolysis using electricity generated from renewable resources. It is still much more expensive than conventional hydrogen, which is generally obtained from methane gas in a process that releases carbon dioxide. As well as sufficient low-cost electricity generated from renewables, investment in the electrolyser is a key factor in cost-efficient production of green hydrogen.
The central component of the electrolyser, which impacts strongly its on efficiency and reliability, is an ion-conducting membrane. Evonik has now developed a novel anion exchange membrane (AEM), made from a resistant polymer with excellent conductivity, which should contribute to the breakthrough of electrolytic production of hydrogen.
“The polymer chemistry behind this membrane is the key to efficient electrolysis. And we now hold that key,” said Oliver Conradi, who is responsible for membrane research at Creavis, Evonik's strategic innovation unit.
Electrolysis with anion exchange membranes offers benefits such as lower investment costs, as, unlike other methods used today, no precious metals are required. Other features of the AEM electrolysis platform include high current density, very good efficiency, and high flexibility.
Having developed the new membrane, Evonik is now taking part in the CHANNEL - Cost-efficient Hydrogen production unit based on ANionN exchange membrane Electrolysis – project, aimed at planning, constructing and testing an AEM electrolysis system based on the new membranes from Evonik.
The project will run for three years and will receive funding of around €2 million from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research program. The partners in the project consortium represent the entire value chain for the production of green hydrogen and include Shell (Netherlands; hydrogen user), Enapter (Italy; plant engineer for the electrolyser), Forschungszentrum Jülich (Germany; R&D on membrane-electrode assemblies), the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU; catalysts), and SINTEF, an independent research organization in Norway responsible for coordinating the project.
Evonik is providing the membrane.