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ITM Power reports completion of HydroGEN alkaline electrolyzer project; prototype stack 43% the cost of its PEM counterpart

ITM Power reported that a recently completed three-year collaboration project co-funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board (TSB) resulted in a new alkaline solid polymer membrane for an electrolyzer. This material, together with the low-cost catalysts and injection moulded components developed, offer a prototype stack costing 43% of its PEM counterpart.

In addition, ITM said, the properties of the membrane material enable simplification of electrolyzer balance of plant, providing routes to further balance of plant savings. The HydroGEN project focused on the realization of electrolyzer cost reduction through advances in materials technology and system simplification.

The important achievements realized within the project include:

  • A low-cost alkaline membrane based on ITM Power’s suite of hydrocarbon polymers. The new electrolyzer membrane platform operates in a re-circulating liquid alkaline environment and transports OH- rather than H+ ions. The alkaline environment enables alternative, lower cost non-precious metal catalyst materials to be used. The high ionic conductivity makes high current densities achievable which in turn keeps stack sizes small. The high water permeability allows considerable simplification in the water management system.

  • Elimination of precious metal catalysts. The removal of precious metal catalysts has long been understood to be key to achieving a step-change in the cost of electrolysis, and therefore hydrogen production. The University of Southampton and Teer Coatings Ltd (MIBA Coatings Group) worked together to develop no-precious metal, low-cost catalysts which could be used in conjunction with ITM Power’s novel alkaline membranes also developed within this program.

    Working with these partners ITM Power has developed membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) which show stable performance in a variety of duty cycles and continuous operation in excess of 2,000 hours without signs of degradation.

  • Increasing current density. Conventional liquid alkaline electrolysis tends to be restricted to low current density (<1A/cm2) operation. The solid alkaline membrane developed in this project has been characterized to 2A/cm2 and subjected to longevity testing at 1.67A/cm2. Higher current density enables more hydrogen to be generated from an electrolyzer stack and as such is a very important parameter in reducing cost, offering a pathway to use fewer cells.

  • Low-cost balance of plant development. The development of hydrophilic alkaline membranes has enabled engineering and stack design advances which significantly reduce system costs, the most significant of which is dry cathode operation. In this mode, water is back diffused from the low pressure anode side of the stack through the membrane to the cathode. This avoids costly water management systems while retaining the ability to access high current density operation.

  • Low-cost injection moulded cell plates. Boddingtons Plastics Ltd has developed moulded plastic cell plates to ITM Power’s design, further reducing stack costs.

  • Ongoing cyclic and continuous testing has accrued more than 1 year's durability data; and

  • Prototype stack cost reduction of 57% (compared to PEM-based stack).

These developments culminated in significant potential for cost reductions which will be further developed under a recently announced EU grant-funded program, according to the company.

Separately, ITM Power recently announced a partnership agreement with a consortium called EcoIsland, the largest single sustainability project in the UK. The partners in EcoIsland are IBM, Toshiba, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), Southern Water, Cable&Wireless Worldwide and ITM Power. ITM Power will provide hydrogen energy storage and clean fuel technologies for integration into the renewable energy smart grid system being developed on the Isle of Wight.

The EcoIsland project brings together within a single island energy system a critical mass of smart energy technologies to demonstrate how a future energy system can be configured. With renewable generation including wind, solar, tidal and geothermal the island will need to match supply and demand using battery energy storage, hydrogen energy storage and demand side management. These technologies will be coordinated centrally by smart grid technologies supplied by IBM, Cable&Wireless Worldwide, SSE and Toshiba.

ITM Power is the hydrogen fuel partner and will supply hydrogen refueling equipment controlled by smart grid technology to optimize both renewable energy storage and the provision of fuel to both fuel cell vehicles and Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine commercial vehicles. The intention is that the island will also be a showcase for advanced low emission hydrogen vehicles being launched from 2013.

Up to four refueling systems are planned for the first phase of deployment on the island demonstrating the scale-ability of the technology and rapid response demand side reserve.



This is good news. Electrolyzer breakthroughs are key to lower cost H2 for FCVs and perhaps ICE-H2. And what a terrific idea to make the Isle of Wight a testbed for the grid and fueling infrastructure. If they can make this work at costs that compete with plain EVs and cheap, cheap, cheap local electricity - they've got a shot.

What is doubtful is the economics of "smart" grids trying to compete with distributed energy.


Hurry up hydrogen and/or solid-state batteries. Im interrested to buy and also there is many interrested to buy.


This could bring future FCs closer to future BEVs, in cost and performances. Buyers could have two worth while alternatives.


Using OH- membranes in a fuel cell requires either water diffusion through the membrane or water introduction along with oxygen. This may not manage as easily as in an electrolyzer.

Cheap hydrogen requires cheap electricity. The low efficiency of conversion to hydrogen may be offset by price arbitrage. This may help it compete with batteries, but the trend is for batteries to get cheaper and better a lot faster.


Also, gasification of coal to make hydrogen will be cheaper than making electricity to electrolyze water for a long, long time.


Harvey has $.02kWh hydro in his stable (before taxes) - maybe his government would be willing to donate that low cost electric to the cause of H2 electrolysis? We could then begin the Hydrogen Age with a... bang.


Hydro can only sell for 2¢/kWh because it's "stranded power". Create enough of an export pathway, either through wires or pipelines, and those prices will be bid up to close to those of the priciest market they can reach.


Alcoa will get an extra 500 MW delivered at their expended local aluminium plant at a very low $0.029/KWh flat rate. It is not sure if they will pay the regular 14% sale taxes or not. Such sales, very close to production + transportation cost, are used to create jobs, keep aluminum price low and increase exports. Vermont State is getting the same energy delivered for $0.056/Kwh, which is very cheap and very close to the price we pay. For some obscure reasons, regular sale taxes do not apply to Oil, NG and Electricity exported but to most local residents.


Applying regular sale taxes to energy exported to USA could generate $20+B/year, or enough to reduce the current budget deficit by 60%.


Exports are valued often because they come without burden of taxes. Which makes their cost competitive.

The question remains, is it healthier for the preponderance of community to simply replace oil consumption and infrastructure with H2?? Or to build a new infrastructure on EVs and charge points?

I would argue it is easily better to go electric. The opportunity for decreasing electric costs is expanding. And the public already subscribes to the culture of home charging. So, charging at home and or office, public charge point rivals production, transportation, installation of H2 and FCVs.

But hey. Put the new FCs out there and see if anyone wants em.


Reel$$...I agree with you with regards to future EVs, specially when widespread wireless, fixed and mobile (on-the-move), charging systems are installed. Not having to stop or even think about recharging would be appreciated by many.

Export taxes on high demand energies and raw materials would be a way for contributing countries to receive a fair value for their natural resources.

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