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CEA LITEN develops high-temperature electrolyzer for more efficient hydrogen production from water

France’s CEA LITEN (Laboratory for Innovation in New Energy Technologies and Nanomaterials) has developed a new high-temperature electrolysis system for more efficient hydrogen production. The system delivers hydrogen from steam at 150 °C and electricity with power consumption of 3.9 kWh/Nm3 (normal cubic meters) H2 with efficiency exceeding 90%.

CEA LITEN electrolyzer prototype. Click to enlarge.

This system includes the stack of cells as well as the balance-of-plant—auxiliary components necessary to fluid management, thermal and electrical system in order to make it autonomous. The complete system is compact, about the size of a refrigerator. It can produce between 1 and 2.5 Nm3/h of hydrogen.

The heat of the exhaust gases is recovered to preheat the inlet gas with high-temperature heat exchangers when the system operates in a slightly exothermic mode. The performance of this system was measured and exceeds 90%, confirming the potential of this technology, CEA said.

We are convinced that the energy carrier hydrogen will play a major role in the energy transition. These results across the system confirm that the high-temperature electrolysis is a credible alternative to produce economically viable hydrogen without using fossil resources. Our many years of experience on the electrochemical converters and thermal optimization of processes leads us today to a maturity level ever.

—Florence Lambert, Director of CEA Liten



A nuclear plant has huge potential for tapping steam at 150°C during off-peak periods.  A "normal cubic meter" of H2 is 89 grams, so at 3.9 kWh/nm³ the energy input is ~44 kWh/kg.

This is reasonable if you can get electricity for something under 5¢/kWh.  It's never going to work at European FIT rates for RE.


So if Toyota's fuel cell car requires about 5 Kg of hydrogen to travel about 600 km, then this would require 220 kWh of energy to produce this hydrogen. If a Tesla model S with the 85 kWh pack requires about 100 kWh to charge the pack (assuming a 15%) loss, to travel about 450 km, then would it not make sense to use electrical energy in a BEV instead of using it to make hydrogen? Please comment, perhaps I am missing something.


I just checked and Toyota's Mirai fuel cell vehicle has a range of about 300 miles, or about 450 km, similar to the Model S.


Yes, the BEV makes far better use of energy than the FCEV would.  The FCEV makes much better use than "electrofuels" burned in combustion engines does.

Doesn't the insanity of Audi's electricity-to-methane system jump out at you like a homeless schizophrenic yelling about the Jews controlling his mind?


You are assuming that the electricity is available when it is wanted.
With renewables the problem is that it usually isn't, and so hydrogen provides a means to store it, in enough quantity that it can even be done to cover the winter if solar is used.


Back to the same Bev's <50% losses of hydrogen against the
stated convenience and lower storage cost.
Predicted and repeated,
It seems to be confirming the numbers presented by gcc commentators for possible real outcomes.


For me the thing is that we won't have just one solution, sweeping all before it, but an array of technologies to be mixed and matched.

We don't need to always turn to the most theoretically efficient solution, or we would all be riding bicycles, not driving cars.

So for me the most pertinent question is not:
'What is theoretically the most efficient solution?'
'Is the technology efficient enough to be practical?'


Fuel cell vehicles are of interest as for a start over 50% of cars have nowhere convenient to plug in.


99% of vehicles have nowhere convenient to buy hydrogen either.


That is about as relevant as that 99% of vehicles are not currently battery electric.


It's a lot easier to sell a BEV where there's only 1% BEVs than to sell an FCEV where there's only 1% availability of H2.


It's been years that im waiting for that, because I think that hydrogen can be put in use everywhere. If they build low cost hydrogen stations for fuelcell cars that we can also build bi-fuel cars and trucks with secondary hydrogen tanks and the hydrogen is injected into the gasoline or diesel engine burning all particulate soot and it double mpg and reduce pollution by 10x.

battery systems are more costly, less powerful and cannot be use into trucking contrary to hydrogen. it is easier too to stock intermittent green electricity into hydrogen than batteries with this new efficient electrolyzer. Im interested to buy hydrogen for my next ice car purchase. Please begin immediately offering on the market bi-fuel hydrogen-gasoline cars and trucks.


This is one more technology to reduce the cost of making hydrogen. Others will follow to extract H2 from H2O at >90% efficiency at a lower cost using unused clean electricity.

FCEVs (with lower cost H2 and improved FCs) will eventually exceed the usefulness of BEVs ad ICEVs in certain applications such as heavy long range trucks, long range buses, locomotives, ships, cold weather areas etc.

USA's-Canada's very long railroads may not have to be electrified (at a very high cost) to benefit from electrified drive trains without polluting diesels. Most current diesel-electric locomotives could modified with large dual-triple FCs and a few banks of supercaps.


Yep, it is utterly inconceivable that any new infrastructure for anything at all will ever be built.

They are making right now the fuel cell vehicles that detractors said would never reach production, and there are around a hundred or so hydrogen stations that were never supposed to be built, we were told.

Yep, it is utterly inconceivable that any new infrastructure for anything at all will ever be built.

And you obviously find it utterly inconceivable (H/T Vizzini from "The Princess Bride") that it's easier to grow from 50% coverage to 100% coverage than from 1% coverage to 100% coverage.


Thats just too cryptic even for me
but the princess bride has just made my must see list


If you would would just agree with me,
I'm sure we could settle our differences.
Meanwhile this is a must read for communicators:


Even better than From wiki.

Humpty appears in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass (1872), where he discusses semantics and pragmatics with Alice. “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ” “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master that’s all.” Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”[15]


Read the book first, Arnold.  They're both treats.


The inconceivable and impossible have a tendency to become reality.

So will 3D printing, 1000+ Wh/Kg low cost batteries, BEVs, FCEVs, low cost H2, composite-aluminum alloys ultra light vehicles mass production, electrified locomotives without costly power cables, electrified ships, electric airplanes, mini kamikaze drones, driverless vehicles, voice command machines and robots etc.,

Roger Pham

Electrolysis at 150 dgr C can give ideal waste-heat temperature to create process steam for industries, hospitals for equipment sterilization and laundry room, ad restaurants, spas for steam bath...etc. Imagine future facilities mentioned above will have rooftops and parking lots covered with PV panels with surplus daytime power plus surplus of wind power used for process steam production. Then, the efficiency of electrolysis will be approaching 100%.

Then, where H2 will be consumed, such as in homes, apartments, hotels, or offices, etc. the waste heat will be recuperated for water heating in the evenings, or for room heating in winters, thereby elevating consumption efficiency of H2 to approach 100%.


one of the problem here is that all is evoluting slowly and im 53 y old. One thing that interress me is to see gasoline prices go lower and since 6 months it is happening and I think it will go on forever, lol. The reason is because of higher technology in everything. This news push a bit the price of petrol lower and it's a good thing. The bad side is that peoples start again to buy big gazguzzlers suvs, unfortunately. Keep up the good work and someday it will cost the same thing to travel by car than watching tv or sleeping in a car that drive by itself. That day I will buy a self propelling Winnebago and live in it from coast to coast.


Hydrogen specific calorific heating value is 3 kWh/Nm3 and power consumption 3.9 kWh/Nm3 for producing H2 and that gives 77% efficiency. That is still impressive achievement but to compare apples to apples one should say that there are energy consumption for liquidizing, compressing hydrogen, storing or transporting. Therefore 77% is the theoretically possible hydrogen electrolysis efficiency limit.
The authors where referring to high heating value of hydrogen taking into account possibility utilizing hydrogen condensation energy back to 25 C. That not possible in normal conditions. When combustion hydrogen or after reverse electrolysis in FC vapor is released. Therefore 90% efficiency is misleading.

Roger Pham

No, Darius, for room heating or water heating when the temperature desired is below the boiling point of water, the entire latent heat of steam is usable, which is 5 kWh per kg of H2, allowing the entire high heating value of hydrogen into the picture, or 40 kWh per kg, bringin the efficiency back to 92%.


Not all of it.  If steam is mixed with another gas you can only recover latent heat until the relative humidity is 100%.  At high temperatures or low water fractions that will leave quite a bit of vapor in the exhaust, its heat unrecoverable.

Roger Pham

Good point, E-P, if the FC's waste heat is below boiling point of water.
However, with future FC capable of producing waste heat above 100 dgC, the output will be pure steam, then when this heat in steam pipes will be in contact with room air at 22 dgC, then nearly all the steam will condense to water and releasing all the latent heat, considering vapor pressure of water at 22 dg C is very low.

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