09 Nov 2011 09:11:11
Completion of the Technology Strategy Board funded HydroGEN project
ITM Power (AIM: ITM), the energy storage and clean fuel company, is pleased to announce the outcome of a recently completed three year collaboration project based on the development of the company's unique suite of alkaline membrane materials. The project, co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, focused on the realisation of electrolyser cost reduction through advances in materials technology and system simplification.
The key advancement within the project was a new alkaline solid polymer membrane. This material, together with the low cost catalysts and injection moulded components developed, offer a prototype stack costing 43% of its PEM counterpart. In addition, the properties of the membrane material enable simplification of electrolyser balance of plant, providing routes to further balance of plant savings.
The important achievements realised within the project are outlined below:
• A low cost alkaline membrane based on the Company’s unique suite of hydrocarbon polymers
• Elimination of precious metal catalysts
• Characterisation in an electrolyser up to 2A/cm2
• Simplification of water management balance of plant
• Low cost injection moulded cell plates
• Ongoing cyclic and continuous testing has accrued over 1 year's durability data
• Prototype stack cost reduction of 57% (compared to PEM-based stack)
Development and testing of an alkaline solid polymer membrane ITM Power has developed a new electrolyser membrane platform which operates in a re-circulating liquid alkaline environment and transports OH- rather than H+ ions. The alkaline environment enables alternative, lower cost non-precious metal catalyst materials to be used. The high ionic conductivity makes high current densities achievable which in turn keeps stack sizes small. The high water permeability allows considerable simplification in the water management system.
Removal of precious metal catalysts The removal of precious metal catalysts has long been understood to be key to achieving a step change in the cost of electrolysis, and therefore hydrogen production. The University of Southampton and Teer Coatings Ltd (MIBA Coatings Group) worked together to develop non-precious metal, low cost catalysts which could be used in conjunction with ITM Power's novel alkaline membranes also developed within this programme. Working with these partners ITM Power has developed membrane electrode assemblies which show stable performance in a variety of duty cycles and continuous operation in excess of 2,000 hours without signs of degradation.
Increasing current density Conventional liquid alkaline electrolysis tends to be restricted to low current density (<1A/cm2) operation. The solid alkaline membrane developed in this project has been characterised to 2A/cm2 and subjected to longevity testing at 1.67A/cm2. Higher current density enables more hydrogen to be generated from an electrolyser stack and as such is a very important parameter in reducing cost, offering a pathway to use fewer cells.
Low cost stack component Boddingtons Plastics Ltd has developed moulded plastic cell plates to ITM Power's unique design, further reducing stack costs.
Low cost balance of plant development The development of hydrophilic alkaline membranes has enabled engineering and stack design advances which significantly reduce system costs, the most significant of which is dry cathode operation. In this mode, water is back diffused from the low pressureanode side of the stack through the membrane to the cathode. This avoids costly water management systems while retaining the ability to access high current density operation.
These developments have culminated in significant potential for cost reductions which will be further developed under the company's EU grant funded programme which was announced recently.
Commenting for ITM Power Dr Graham Cooley said "Alkaline solid polymer electrolysis offers a potentially unique way of both eliminating platinum catalysts and retaining high current density and durability; essentially getting the best out of both PEM and liquid alkaline technologies. We are very pleased with these results and have chosen to extend testing".
Commenting for the Technology Strategy Board, lead technologist Richard Kemp-Harper said: "This new technology has the potential to create a viable fuel created from renewable power, which is a very interesting proposition. The scale of the cost reduction is a credit to ITM Power and their consortium partners and demonstrates the commercial value generated from well-targeted R&D funding. We are delighted to have been able to support this valuable project."
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