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Fraunhofer HHI is Researching the Hydrogen Generation of the Future

By August 16, 2021 3   min read  (420 words)

August 16, 2021 |

Fuel Cells Works, Fraunhofer HHI is Researching the Hydrogen Generation of the Future

The Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) is involved in the new InnoEly project (innovation laboratory for water electrolysis) with its “Fiber Optic Sensor Systems” department.

InnoEly deals with the process of water electrolysis, the most common process used to produce green hydrogen. The research team is working on making this process more efficient so that hydrogen can become a widely applicable energy carrier of the future. The cooperation project started in May 2021 and will run until April 2024. It is funded by the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture with initially 1.2 million euros.

In order to be able to use hydrogen as an energy carrier, what is known as water electrolysis is required. Here, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen with the help of an electric current. This manufacturing process is very energy-intensive. With a steadily increasing power consumption, hydrogen technology is therefore only environmentally friendly if its manufacturing process can be optimized.

This is where the InnoEly research team comes in. The team is working on increasing the efficiency of the electrolysis process while reducing costs. For this purpose, the researchers are developing a new type of catalyst unit. The aim is to increase the efficiency of conventional water electrolysis processes to over 75 percent.

To do this, InnoEly takes a look at the entire process of hydrogen production. The project partners are developing a tool kit of modeling and characterization components that can be used for all three relevant water electrolysis technologies. These include alkaline electrolysis (AEL), acidic proton exchange membrane electrolysis (PEMEL) and high-temperature electrolysis (HTEL).

Using the AEL technology as an example, the “Fiber Optic Sensor Systems” department carries out targeted material functionalization. To this end, the team is working on electrodes already used in electrolysis and on electrode materials newly developed by the partners in the project. For example, nickel foams and carrier plates for electrocatalysts are functionalized by the researchers using femtosecond laser structuring. The structure optimizes the effect of the electrodes. The so-called overvoltage, the lost amount of energy, can be reduced by up to 20 percent. This makes it possible to increase the amount of hydrogen obtained with minimal optimization of the existing system. The electrode components produced in the process are characterized in the second step.

In addition to the Fraunhofer HHI, the Leibniz University of Hanover, the TU Braunschweig, the TU Clausthal, the University of Oldenburg, the DLR Institute for Networked Energy Systems and the Institute for Solar Energy Research in Hameln ISFH are involved in the project.

Source: Fraunhofer HHI

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