New membrane promises cheaper electrolysis


The Creavis strategic business unit of Germany’s second largest chemical company, Evonik Industries, has created an anion exchange membrane (AEM) which could replace ion-conducting membranes in the generation of hydrogen from electrolysis.

“Our membrane could allow commercial realization of highly efficient and economically viable electrolysis technology,” said Oliver Conradi, who is responsible for membrane research at Creavis.

The company said the use of diaphragms or proton exchange membranes in conventional electrolysis requires precious metals but its innovation removes the need for such costly materials. The new membrane is also said to offer high current density, very good efficiency and high flexibility.

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The technology is being developed under an EU-funded project entitled Development of the most cost-efficient hydrogen production unit based on anion exchange membrane electrolysis, or CHANNEL, which runs until December 2022.

The initiative aims to develop an AEM electrolyzer which uses low cost materials such as non platinum-group metal electrocatalysts, porous transport layers, current collectors, bi-polar plates, new anion exchange membranes and ionomers. The European Commission says the project is also intended to develop a supporting power plant infrastructure – around the generation unit itself – which will transform the electrolyzer industry. “This will enable the development of an electrolyzer technology at a capital cost (capex) equal [to] or below classical alkaline electrolysis,” states the project website. “However, in contrast to the alkaline technology, the CHANNEL AEM electrolyzer will have an efficiency and current density operation close to the one of [a] proton exchange membrane electrolyzer.”

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