Hydrogen is a promising energy carrier that has projections to help shift the energy industry from being powered by fossil fuels to renewables. Alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) is a mature technology used to produce hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity with a forecasted thousand-fold expansion by 2030.
Modern AWE exhibits excellent durability and low capital costs due to the use of common transition metals for cell components. There is significant opportunity to improve cell performance and consequently drive down the cost of producing low-carbon hydrogen, but there are still some issues to overcome in order to scale-up and fully commercialise.
Companies globally are developing next generation AWE devices and components and NPL is often approached to support development through consultancy, modelling and independently assessing the performance and durability of components.
For over 10 years, NPL scientists have developed advanced techniques to measure the performance of electrolysers and their degradation processes. This includes off-site electrochemical and material characterisation measurements, single cell testing, gas quality and ‘in-operation’ cell testing on state of the art and next generation electrolysers and electrolyser components.
OxfordNanoSystems (OnS), a UK based SME, required AWE electrodes with novel catalytic coatings to be characterised and screened for performance and durability. NPL developed methods to measure the electrochemically active surface area of the electrodes and performed single cell testing to simulate operation in a state-of-the-art electrolyser.
NPL supported another UK SME with the development of an electrochemical pre-treatment for AWE electrodes. NPL was able to provide advice on performing reliable electrochemical processing and measurements and compared the performance of the electrodes with and without their treatment against nickel alloy electrodes.
The customer, via NPL measurements, gained a deeper understanding of the performance of the electrodes relative to a commercial benchmark.
On a technical level, NPL provided information for the customer, which subsequently allowed them to further optimise their coatings and production processes, as well as receive investor and consumer buy-in.