The Hydrogen Stream: Reclaimed carbon fiber bipolar plates may increase fuel cell capacity by 30%


Boston Materials and Paris-based advanced materials specialist Arkema have unveiled new bipolar plates made with 100%-reclaimed carbon fiber, which increases the capacity of fuel cells. “Bipolar plates account for up to 80% of the overall stack weight, and plates made with Boston Materials' ZRT are more than 50% lighter than the incumbent stainless steel plates. This weight reduction increases the capacity of the fuel cell by 30%,” said Boston Materials. 

The University of Houston‘s Texas Center for Superconductivity (TcSUH) has developed a NiFe (nickel and iron)-based electrocatalyst that interacts with CuCo (copper-cobalt) to create high-performance seawater electrolysis. TcSUH said the multi-metallic electrocatalyst is “one of the best performing among all reported transition- metal-based OER electrocatalysts.” The research team, led by Prof. Zhifeng Ren, is now working with Element Resources, a Houston-based company that specializes in green hydrogen projects. TcSUH's paper, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explains that the apt oxygen evolution reaction (OER) electrocatalyst for seawater electrolysis needs to be resistant to corrosive seawater and avoid chlorine gas as a side product, while decreasing costs. The researchers said that each kilogram of hydrogen produced via seawater electrolysis could also yield 9 kg of pure water.

University of Strathclyde researchers said in a new study that polymers loaded with iridium are apt photocatalysts, as they decompose water into hydrogen and oxygen cost effectively. Polymers are indeed printable, “allowing the use of cost-effective printing technologies for scale up,” said the researchers. The study, “Photocatalytic overall water splitting under visible light enabled by a particulate conjugated polymer loaded with iridium,” was recently published in Angewandte Chemie, a journal managed by the German Chemical Society. “The photocatalysts (polymers) are of huge interest as their properties can be tuned using synthetic approaches, allowing for simple and systematic optimization of the structure in the future and to optimize activity further,” said researcher Sebastian Sprick.

Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) and Firstgas Group have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to identify opportunities to produce and distribute green hydrogen to homes and businesses in New Zealand. “In March 2021, Firstgas announced a plan to decarbonize New Zealand's pipeline network by transitioning from natural gas to hydrogen. From 2030, hydrogen will be blended into the North Island's natural gas network, with conversion to a 100% hydrogen grid by 2050,” FFI said. It noted that it is also interested in teaming up with other companies for a “green Pilbara” vision for giga-scale projects. The Pilbara is a dry, scarcely populated region in the northern part of Western Australia. 

Aviation H2 has signed a strategic partnership with aircraft charter operator FalconAir. “Aviation H2 will get access to the FalconAir Bankstown hangar, facilities and operating licences so they can begin building Australia's first hydrogen-powered plane,” Aviation H2 said, adding that it is on track to put a plane in the sky by the middle of 2023.

Hydroplane has signed its second US Air Force (USAF) Small Business Technology Transfer contract. “This contract allows the company, in partnership with the University of Houston, to demonstrate an engineering model hydrogen fuel cell based powerplant in a ground and flight demonstration,” Hydroplane said. The company aims to fly its demonstrator aircraft in 2023. The 200 kW modular solution should replace existing combustion power plants in existing single-engine and urban air mobility platforms.

Bosch said it will invest up to €500 million ($527.6 million) by the end of the decade in its mobility solutions business sector to develop “the stack, the core component of an electrolyzer.” Bosch is using PEM technology. “With pilot plants scheduled to commence operation in the coming year, the company plans to supply these smart modules to manufacturers of electrolysis plants and industrial service providers from 2025 onward,” the company said, adding that it will focus on mass production and economies of scale in its facilities in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. The company expects the electrolyzer components market to reach around €14 billion by 2030.

RWE has secured funding approval for a 14 MW electrolyzer test facility in Lingen, Germany. Construction is set to start in June. “RWE aims to use the trial facility to test two electrolyzer technologies under industrial conditions: Dresden manufacturer Sunfire will install a pressure-alkaline electrolyzer with a capacity of 10 MW for RWE,” the German company said. “In parallel, Linde, a leading global industrial gases and engineering company, will set up a 4 MW proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer. RWE will own and operate the entire site in Lingen.” RWE will invest €30 million, while the state of Lower Saxony will contribute €8 million. The electrolyzer facility should generate up to 290 kg of green hydrogen per hour from spring 2023. “The trial operating phase is initially planned for a three-year period, with an option for a further year,” said RWE, noting that it has also started approval procedures for the construction of a hydrogen storage facility in Gronau, Germany.

The German federal government and the state of Lower Saxony have signed a letter of intent to work on infrastructure. They aim to facilitate the country's short-term diversification needs, while also accommodating green hydrogen and its derivatives. “The development of LNG import structures that are H2-ready are not only sensible in the short and medium term, but absolutely necessary,” the Lower Saxony authorities said in a statement. 

Gasgrid Finland and its Swedish counterpart, Nordion Energi, have announced the launch of the Nordic Hydrogen Route, a cross-border hydrogen infrastructure project in the Bay of Bothnia region, by 2030. “The companies seek to develop a network of pipelines that would effectively transport energy from producers to consumers to ensure they have access to an open, reliable, and safe hydrogen market. An integrated energy infrastructure would connect customers across the region, from hydrogen and e-fuels producers to steelmakers, who are eager to create new value chains and products as well as to decarbonize their operations,” said Gasgrid Finland. Regional demand for hydrogen is estimated to exceed 30 TWh by 2030, and around 65 TWh by 2050.

Thierry Breton, the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, met with 20 CEOs from the European electrolyzer manufacturing sector in Brussels this week to pave the way toward achieving the objectives of the REPowerEU Communication, which aims for 10 metric tons of locally produced renewable hydrogen and 10 metric tons of imports by 2030. According to Hydrogen Europe, the meeting focused on regulatory frameworks, easy access to finance, and supply chain integration. The European executive body wants an installed electrolyzer capacity of 90 GW to 100 GW by 2030.

BP revealed plans this week to set up large-scale hydrogen production facilities in Teesside, England, with one focusing on blue hydrogen and another on green hydrogen. “Together, aiming to produce 1.5 GW of hydrogen by 2030 – 15% of the UK government's 10 GW target by 2030,” the company said. It plans to invest GBP 18 billion ($22.2 billion) in wind energy, CCS, EV charging, and new oil and gas fields. Shell, meanwhile, said it might increase its hydrogen interests over the next few months. CEO Ben van Beurden said Shell is “very close to making a few major investment decisions on hydrogen in Northwest Europe,” with a focus on blue and green hydrogen. 

Anglo American has unveiled a prototype of the world's largest hydrogen-powered mine haul truck. It is designed to operate in everyday mining conditions at its Mogalakwena PGMs mine in South Africa. “The 2 MW hydrogen-battery hybrid truck, generating more power than its diesel predecessor and capable of carrying a 290-ton payload, is part of Anglo American's nuGen Zero Emission Haulage Solution (ZEHS),” the company said.

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