Development of technologies to reduce the production cost of green hydrogen

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hidrogeno verde.jpg
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Green hydrogen has emerged as a key solution in efforts to achieve a decarbonized economy. However, its mass adoption has been hampered by high production costs. These costs stem primarily from the use of expensive rare metals, such as platinum and iridium, in the polymer membrane electrolysis devices used to produce this green hydrogen. Fortunately, a team of researchers at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research Center has developed a breakthrough technology that could change the game.

A significant reduction of rare metals in the production of green hydrogen

The research team, led by Dr. Hyun S. Park and Sung Jong Yoo, has succeeded in significantly lowering the amount of platinum and iridium required in the protective coatings of these electrolysis devices. What’s even better, this reduction doesn’t compromise performance or durability, two crucial aspects for large-scale use.

The key: the substitution of precious metals for iron nitride

Unlike previous studies that focused solely on reducing the amount of iridium catalyst, the KIST researchers replaced the precious metal in the protective layer with inexpensive iron nitride, which has a large surface area. A smaller amount of iridium catalyst was then evenly coated on it. The result? A noticeable increase in the economic efficiency of the device.

Improving economic efficiency in the production of green hydrogen

These electrolysis devices play a crucial role in the production of green hydrogen, as they generate high purity hydrogen and oxygen by breaking down water using renewable sources such as solar energy. In addition, they supply hydrogen to various industries, including steel manufacturing and chemicals. Furthermore, they are ideal for storing renewable energy in the form of hydrogen, making improving the economic efficiency of these devices a vital step towards achieving a green hydrogen-based economy.

Overcoming the shortage of precious metals

A key obstacle in the widespread adoption of these green hydrogen production devices has been the scarcity and low production of the precious metals used in the machines. In standard electrolysis units, for example, the oxygen generating electrode operating in a highly corrosive environment requires a protective layer of gold or platinum. In addition, a layer of iridium catalyst is coated. Unfortunately, both metals have minimal reserves and production.

The solution: iron nitride as an alternative to precious metals

To improve the economic viability of water electrolysis, the KIST team replaced these rare metals with inexpensive iron nitride (Fe2N). A compound process was used to uniformly coat the electrode with iron oxide, which has low electrical conductivity, and then convert it to iron nitride for improved conductivity. Onto this layer of iron nitride, an iridium catalyst approximately 25 nanometers thick was uniformly coated, reducing the amount of iridium catalyst required to less than 0.1 mg/cm2.

The developed electrode replaces gold or platinum used as a protective layer, maintaining performance comparable to existing commercial electrolysis units, and reduces the amount of iridium catalyst to just 10% of current level. The team ran these new components for more than 100 hours to verify their initial stability.

An important step towards more affordable green hydrogen

“Reducing the amount of iridium catalyst and developing alternative materials for the platinum protective layer is essential for the widespread and economical use of polymer electrolysis membrane green hydrogen production devices, and the use of economical iron nitride in Platinum status is of great importance,” said KIST’s Dr. Hyun S. Park. “After observing the performance and durability of the electrode, we will soon apply it in commercial devices.”

This breakthrough in the reduction of rare metals in the production of green hydrogen is a significant step toward reducing the cost of this green fuel and making it more economically viable for widespread use. It could help accelerate the transition to a decarbonized economy by promoting the adoption of green hydrogen technology.

Via newswise.com and eng.kist.re.kr

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Brian Adam
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