In the H2 Giga project, the University of Bayreuth is researching the development and industrial production of high-performance, low-cost electrolysers that can be used to meet Germany’s future demand for green hydrogen.
Green hydrogen stores large amounts of sustainably produced energy and can be transported over long distances. Thus, it will be of central importance to our future energy supply. It is already foreseeable that the future demand in Germany alone will amount to several hundred million tonnes annually. To meet this demand, efficient, robust, and cost-effective electrolysers are needed to split water molecules using electrical energy from sustainable sources to produce hydrogen. The electrolysers have to be mass-produced on an industrial scale and be able to meet the European Union’s hydrogen strategy target of 40 gigawatts of electrolysis capacity by 2030.
High-temperature electrolysis (HTEL) has proven to be a particularly promising technology for the production of green hydrogen. HTEL cells connected in series, known as HTEL stacks, serve as electrolysers. However, in order for the energy industry to have access to large-scale HTEL cells and stacks in the near future, considerable measures in research and development efforts are still necessary. These efforts encompass service life, material costs, efficiency, new technologies for stack manufacturing, as well as their use for hydrogen production in the high quantities required.
Predicting aging processes
This is precisely where H2 Giga project “HTs: HTEL Stacks – Ready for Gigawatt” comes in. The Chair of Ceramic Materials Engineering at the University of Bayreuth is responsible for decisive research and development in this collaborative project. Both new electrolyser cells and those already in operation are to be investigated for their microstructure and thermomechanical properties. It is particularly important that the strength of the cells is maintained at high temperatures of up to 850 °C. Only when the relationships between the microstructure and thermomechanical properties are scientifically understood will it be possible to predict ageing processes in the cells and to develop strategies for greater longevity. “With the special competencies and many years of research experience we have gained in earlier projects on fuel cells and the characterization of very thin ceramic films, we will be able to make important contributions to a sustainable energy supply based on hydrogen,” says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Stefan Schafföner, Chair of Ceramic Materials Engineering. The research work of his team will be funded retroactively from 1 May 2021 until 31 March 2025.