Smoltek aims to make today’s electrolysers for fossil-free hydrogen production more efficient
Hydrogen is predicted to become one of the key factors in the energy transition of the future, with for example large investments being made in the use of hydrogen in fossil-free steel production. Smoltek’s technology concept for creating innovative surface material performance in today’s electrolysers for the production of fossil-free hydrogen can lead to more efficient and cheaper operation of hydrogen plants.
Today, major investments in fossil-free hydrogen production are being made in the transport sector, to use hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, as well as in other important industrial sectors such as steel, cement and petrochemicals. Green hydrogen is expected to become a vital energy source for the conversion to a more fossil-free production in these sectors. This will require a massive increase of production of green hydrogen. In order to increase productivity while also reducing the cost of hydrogen production, innovative solutions are needed – this is where the electrolysers come into focus.
New technology in electrolysers for more efficient hydrogen production
Smoltek has identified the hydrogen market as a first application area outside of semiconductors, where the company's patent-protected nanotechnology may prove to have great potential. By being able to improve the area efficiency in interface layers between membranes, flow field plates and electrodes in electrolyser cells, these cells can be made both cheaper and increase peak hydrogen production.
“Today, many people talk about the challenge of storing and distributing hydrogen, but few seem to be interested in modernizing the production technology”, says Ellinor Ehrnberg, Head of Smoltek Innovation.
The hydrogen production technology that Smoltek is focusing on is called PEM (proton exchange membrane). In addition to the fact that the PEM process produces very pure hydrogen, a great advantage is that it can already handle higher current density and more variable load than alkaline electrolysis cells, which means that PEM works well together with intermittent energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
The unique quality of Smoltek’s technology concept is that the catalytic nanoparticles of, typically platinum group nanoparticles of platinum or iridium oxide can be placed on an optimal nanostructure scaffold for the electrolyser cell, which allows for more and better mass transport of the products that arise, in this case oxygen and hydrogen.
“Today’s technology is for example using very expensive and noble catalyst materials that do not come into full contact with the membrane, while Smoltek's technology makes it possible to structure them for optimized contact and thus achieve full effect with a lower amount of expensive particles”, Ellinor Ehrnberg explains.
“With Smoltek’s technology, it should be possible to produce two to three times more hydrogen per cell compared to the current technology. This is because two to three times more catalyst particles can be in contact with the membrane at the same time, thanks to the optimizing of the catalyst layer”, states Ellinor Ehrnberg.Smoltek’s goal in 2021 is to complete a technical proof-of-concept for cell components based on carbon nanofibers and initiate a development collaboration with a large-scale manufacturer of electrolysers and/or its components based on Smoltek’s basic IP platform with specific additions for intellectual property protection in electrolyser technology. As a part of these efforts, Smoltek has recently presented a white paper on the company’s electrolyser technology for cheaper and more efficient hydrogen production, which will increase the understanding of the technology’s potential among potential customers and partners.
Link to the whitepaper, CVD-grown carbon nanofibers in water electrolyzers: www.smoltek.com/smoltek-innovation
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About Smoltek Innovation
In the summer of 2020, Smoltek Nanotech Holding AB formed the subsidiary Smoltek Innovation AB to identify and develop technology and application concepts for markets outside the parent company's initial market for semiconductors. In the feasibility studies that have been carried out, technology areas for energy conversion, energy storage and medical technology with a focus on biosensors have been identified as initial focus areas. Of these, the segments for electrolysers and fuel cells will be prioritized in 2021.
Smoltek is a global company that develops process technology and concepts for applications based on carbon nanotechnology to solve advanced materials engineering problems in several industrial sectors. The company protects its unique technology through an extensive and expanding patent portfolio consisting of around 100 applied for patents, of which today 68 have been granted. Smoltek's share is listed on the Spotlight Stock Market in Stockholm, Sweden under the short name SMOL.