Developing Low-cost PEM Electrolysis at Scale by Optimizing Transport Components and Electrode Interfaces

Project: Research

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Climate change has become an increasingly serious issue globally, and reducing carbon emissions has become a common concern of the international community. Hydrogen (H2) plays an important role in decarbonization in industries such as transportation, industry, and power generation as a fuel and energy storage commodity. However, almost all large-scale production of H2 comes from natural gas and coal, which still produce CO2 and other pollutants as by-products. Splitting water by electrolysis using electricity from renewable sources is far more environmentally friendly than conventional methods. Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis technology is gradually becoming one of the mainstream hydrogen production technologies due to its advantages of high efficiency, speed, flexibility, and low temperature. However, using traditional manufacturing methods to process PEM electrolysis cell components can lead to problems such as complex processes, weak bonding of components, high catalyst loading, and difficulty in scaling up production. Meanwhile, by traditional manufacturing methods, it’s difficult to optimize gas-liquid and electron transfer, leading to problems such as high mass transfer resistance and interfacial electrical resistance, low electrolysis efficiency, and high energy consumption. In this project, we will propose an innovative gas diffusion layer-bipolar plate unified  PEM electrolysis cell, and will develop an integrated additive manufacturing strategy of "random sintering - regular printing" to improve the utilization of catalysts by randomly sintering the gas diffusion layer and the catalyst interface, and to reduce gas-liquid transfer resistance, interfacial electrical resistance, and component numbers by integrating printing of the gas diffusion layer and bipolar plate as a bioinspired hierarchical triply periodic minimal surface structure. Next, we study the gas-liquid transfer mechanism of the integrated gas diffusion layer-bipolar plate structure, manufacture a new type of PEM electrolysis cell, and test its electrolysis characteristics. Finally, we will establish a platform for analyzing the technical, economic, and environmental performance of the new electrolysis cell's building combined heat and power co-generation system, which will quantify the energy savings, emission reductions, and economic benefits. We plan to build a prototype of 300W new PEM cell. Compared to traditional electrolysis cells, the new cell is expected to reduce catalyst loading by 20% and manufacturing costs by 10%, increase hydrogen production efficiency by 10%, and reduce energy consumption by 10%. This will increase green hydrogen production capacity and reduce the electrolysis cell's energy demand. During and after the project, we will actively promote the commercialization of this project with partners such as Guangdong Energy Research Institute, Ltd.


Project number9211360
Grant typeGTF_EPD
Effective start/end date1/02/24 → …