Green hydrogen is an alternative to natural gas, oil or coal and therefore is currently the new buzzword when it comes to a sustainable and secure energy supply. It is produced with the support of a so-called electrolyzer, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity from renewable energy sources.
The most economical option for water electrolysis is currently the AEC electrolyzer with a diaphragm. Though, when using renewable energies, these would often have to be operated at partial load owing to fluctuations in the power supply and have a decisive shortcoming in this application scenario: During standstill or partial load, hydrogen diffuses to the anode and oxygen to the cathode, so that the efficiency of normally greater than 80 percent is considerably lessened. Enhanced performance would be achieved by exceptionally costly electrolyzers with polymer membranes. Then again, the objective of the project is to combine the cost benefits of an AEC electrolyzer with the performance advantages of an electrolyzer with polymer membranes. On the other hand, such electrolyzers cannot be operated economically to date. ERNST Umformtechnik GmbH from Oberkirch-Zusenhofen and The University of Applied Sciences at Offenburg want to change this collectively.
To this end, ERNST Umformtechnik GmbH and The University of Applied Sciences at Offenburg would like to develop and produce bipolar plates, which hold the polymer membranes and make the gas discharge efficient, as straightforward and cost-conscious to fabricate as feasible. This new kind of electrolyzer should also be operational under partial load operation and be approximately 40 percent more affordable than current systems, enabling more economical use accordingly – this would apply to medium-sized companies too.
Technical Director Markus Hausmann and Arturo Carranco, both graduate engineers, as well as Ishak Antty, M.Sc., from the ERNST Umformtechnik GmbH design department, had an initial look at hydrogen research at The University of Applied Sciences at Offenburg at the start of the project, which will proceed until June 2024 and is funded with EUR 800,000 from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection, among others. Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hochberg and Prof. Dr. Patrick König presented the guests the existing electrolyzer at the Regional Innovation Center for Energy Technology and the membranes as well as the current bipolar plates in the university's lab. The particulars will now be developed and examined in the coming months.