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Hystar raises $5.9M+ to develop and commercialize its high-efficiency thin-membrane PEM electrolysis tech

Hystar, a spin-out from SINTEF that is developing a novel PEM electrolysis technology, has raised more than NOK 50 million (US$5.9 million) to support further development and commercialization. Hystar’s electrolyzer produces hydrogen using less energy than existing technologies and enables a substantial increase in hydrogen production output.

AP Ventures, a significant investor in breakthrough hydrogen technologies, led the fundraise, alongside SINTEF Ventures, the investment fund of the SINTEF research institute, and Firda, a pioneering early-stage investor in Norway.

We believe that green hydrogen production has a long and attractive future globally, and we consider the ability to produce it at the efficiencies achieved by Hystar as a significant breakthrough in the electrolysis space. Hystar’s technology will reinforce hydrogens pivotal role in the transition to a decarbonized future.

—Kevin Eggers, Partner, AP Ventures

Hystar’s PEM electrolysis technology enables the production of hydrogen at higher efficiencies than existing PEM technologies. A unique cell design and process architecture offers an opportunity to reduce electricity consumption and increase hydrogen output, significantly lowering the cost of green hydrogen production from PEM electrolysis.

Leveraging SINTEF’s work in its HieffPEM project, the Hystar technology features the use of a thin membrane. Hystar co-founders Alejandro Oyarce Barnett and Magnus Thomassen, when they were at SINTEF, described the basis of the technology in a paper presented at the 2nd International Conference on Electrolysis in June 2019:

Researchers from SINTEF have recently demonstrated a technical breakthrough at lab scale in order to decrease the PEM electrolyser efficiency losses by more than 50% compared to state‐of‐the‐art electrolyser technology. The SINTEF HieffPEM technology results in more than 100% increase in hydrogen production capacity, or 50% cost reduction. This breakthrough may potentially make hydrogen production from electrolysis competitive against large scale hydrogen production from fossil fuels.

The HieffPEM concept consists of reducing all ohmic losses of the electrolyser stack, including membrane ionic resistance and electrical resistances of the porous transport layers (PTLs) and bipolar plates (BPPs). In order to achieve a low membrane resistance, a thin PEM membrane is employed. Normally, employing thin PEM membranes in electrolysers may result in unsafe electrolyser operation, as a thin membrane may have hydrogen permeation rates from cathode to anode close to the explosion limit. In contrast to state‐of‐the‐art PEM electrolysers, operating with DI water at the anode, the HieffPEM electrolyser operates with humidified air and therefore diluting any hydrogen that may have crossed over to a safe operating level.

—Barnett and Thomassen, 2019

In an interview with TU Energy, Thomassen said that while conventional PEM electrolyzers use a membrane up to 0.2mm in thickness, Hystar has developed technology that requires only 10% of that.

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Hystar’s technology makes it possible to have a very much thinner membrane. Credit: Hystar


To preclude the potentially dangerous situation of hydrogen build-up on the anode side due to the thinness of the membrane, Hystar blows air in on the anode side, using the nitrogen-rich air to dilute the H2 concentration to a level that is safe.

The company’s near-term goals will be to develop the Hystar stack and electrolyzer package followed by deployment of pilot units with early customers. The funds raised will primarily be used to build and test stacks and pre-production electrolyzer packages as well as expanding the Hystar team.

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