Economical Production of Hydrogen Through Development of Novel, High Efficiency Electrocatalysts for Alkaline Membrane Electrolysis
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AbstractProton OnSite, in collaboration with the Illinois Institute of Technology, proposes development of a low cost, membrane-based hydrogen generator, based on catalyst and membrane materials advancements. Economical and environmentally benign production and storage of hydrogen for energy markets remains a challenge. The proposed project leverages anion exchange membranes, enabling elimination of the highest expense materials in the cell stack, while the new catalyst formulations provide higher efficiencies than existing state-of-the-art. The goal of this Department of Energy sponsored project is to demonstrate the feasibility of hydrogen generation from electrolysis to meet the DOE hydrogen production targets of $3-4/kg H2. The Phase 1 project focused on improvement in MEA materials for lower oxygen evolution over-potentials. Pyrochlore catalysts were successfully synthesized and characterized, and were demonstrated to provide improved performance over the baseline materials. In Phase 2, the catalyst and anion exchange membrane (AEM) formulations down-selected from the Phase 1 project will be studied in more detail in order to understand the fundamental parameters driving performance. These materials can then be extensively optimized to yield robust electro-catalysts and electrolytes for advanced electrolyzer testing and manufacture. On the catalyst side, the emphasis will be on using advanced processing strategies to yield high turnover frequencies and stability to over 1.8V. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: The proposed project could result in a step change improvement in cost, accelerating implementation of hydrogen infrastructure for not only bottled gas markets but also other markets using traditional delivery of hydrogen. Specifically, the laboratory industrial gas market is extremely price competitive. Hydrogen is being substituted for helium as a carrier gas for analytical equipment, and onsite generation is attractive from an OSHA perspective based on the lack of stored inventory and elimination of bottle transport. Proton has established lab channels and thus has a logical market entry point for the proposed alkaline exchange membrane technology. Longer term, this research and development effort is designed to transform hydrogen-based energy storage into an enabling technology for the reduction of fossil fuel use, by overcoming the present economic constraints preventing its widespread application. Hydrogen via electrolysis is ideally suited as a grid-buffering technology to pair with renewable energy sources to maintain steady power delivery. For commercial energy markets, the main roadblock to implementation is the capital and operating cost of the Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) electrolyzer. While PEM electrolysis technology is competitive in many industrial markets, systems still utilize noble metal catalysts and expensive semi-precious metal flow field components. In the proposed work, transformative research to overcome these materials constraints will be applied in order to enable this technology at a commercial level for energy storage.
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