H2Giga: The lead project electrolysis
H2Giga is the largest of the three lead projects in terms of numbers. Over 130 institutions from industry and science are working on the production of green hydrogen on an industrial scale with an announced funding volume of around 500 million euros. Green hydrogen is the key molecule with which renewable electrical energy can be converted into chemical energy and thus made storable. The storage of electrical energy, in turn, is an essential prerequisite for Germany's energy industry to switch to renewable sources.
The production of hydrogen from water and electricity, "electrolysis," has already achieved considerable technical maturity, but is not yet available on a large scale. Electrolysers are currently still built by hand, with correspondingly high costs and low production capacity. The goal of H2Giga is to prepare for the industrialization of water electrolysis for the production of green hydrogen and to lay the foundation for competitive gigawatt-scale production by 2025.
The main task of the PrometH2eus sub-project is to develop catalysts and electrodes for application in alkaline water electrolysis. Particular focus is placed on oxygen evolution electrodes. The resulting catalyst materials are not only optimized for laboratory conditions, but also with a view to application in large-scale industrial production. To this end, PrometH2eus bridges the gap between basic materials science and application-oriented electrode production.
PrometH2eus combines the expertise of more than 20 research groups and three major corporations, which are working closely together on the development of new electrode materials. RWTH researchers Professor Anna Mechler (electrode modification); Professor Alexander Mitsos and Dr. Dominik Bongartz (process modeling); Professor Matthias Wessling and Dr. John Linkhorst (3D printing); and Professor Regina Palkovits from the Institute of Technical and Macromolecular Chemistry are contributing to the project.
In the multi-partner AlFaKat project, RWTH’s Chair of Heterogeneous Catalysis and Technical Chemistry, headed by Professor Regina Palkovits, is working together with the Center for Fuel Cell Technology and the company KCS Europe GmbH on the development of electrocatalysts for hydrogen production using water electrolysis. The focus is on a novel manufacturing process for scalable high-performance electrode materials based on available elements.
In the StacIE (Stack Scale-up - Industrialization of PEM Electrolysis) research project, RWTH’s Surface Engineering Institute, together with ten other project partners from industry and research institutions, is seeking to increase the efficiency of Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysis for large-scale production. Using thermal spraying and deposition welding, novel coating solutions for corrosion protection of the bipolar plates (BPP) as well as porous conductive transport layers (PTL) with application-specific layer structures will be developed. Application of these coating processes is expected to significantly reduce the manufacturing costs of PEM electrolysis and make it competitive in the long term.
As part of the SEGIWA project, fundamentals are being developed in close collaboration with partners from industry and research to transfer of the modular Siemens PEM electrolyzer Silyzer 300® from partially automated production to serial production in the gigawatt range. The researchers from RWTH’s Laboratory of Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) and the Institute for Industrial Management (FIR) are focusing on the design and implementation of largely automated production processes and their integration within a higher-level production strategy.
To ensure a fast production ramp-up with high efficiency, a scalable production system is being developed. To reduce planning effort and implementation losses between planning and operation, particular emphasis must be placed on integrated, digital production and factory planning, especially for the scaling of production. RWTH’s chemical process engineering departments are concerned with the process engineering production steps as well as the stability of electrolyzer components
The INSTALL AWE network seeks to drive forward the industrialization of alkaline water electrolysis. Together with partners from industry and research (including thyssenkrupp, Industrie De Nora, Hoedtke GmbH & Co. KG), a completely new stack and cell technology is being developed based on the available technology for electrolyzers, facilitating industrial serial production. The aim is, in particular, to optimize production by using robotics and automation. This will make it possible to significantly decrease manufacturing costs and increase throughput compared to the current state of the art.
The DERIEL project deals with risk minimization of a novel pressurized serial PEM electrolyzer. The main objective is to design, build and operate two single-module test rigs on a megawatt scale. In addition, other test beds from 25 to 300 cm² with short cell stacks of up to six cells will be operated in the consortium in close coordination between academic and industrial partners.
A Digital Twin will be developed and used to analyze the extensive data volumes from the operation of the test stands. RWTH’s chemical process engineering institutes are tasked with researching aging and degradation phenomena of membrane-electrode assemblies from Siemens Energy and developing methods to characterize them. The integration of electrolyzers into future value chains for the production of valuable chemical materials and energy sources is also being examined.
In addition to supporting the development and optimization of electrolyzers, the BMBF also provides funding for research into the recycling of discarded electrolyzers, following a holistic approach. These contain valuable platinum metals and various nickel, titanium and iron alloys, which the EU has categorized as critical materials.
The Institute for Metallurgical Process Technology and Metal Recycling at RWTH is working with twelve partners in the ReNaRe (Recycling Sustainable Use of Resources) network, coordinated by TU Bergakademie Freiberg, on the resource-conserving recovery of the metals. In addition, the RWTH Institute supports the network partners by providing metallurgical consulting services and analytical process evaluation to enable a holistic, ecological, and economic assessment of metal recycling processes.