Joint research on high-temperature electrolysis at the Ceramic Materials Engineering research group: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Stefan Schafföner, Ilaria Bombarda M.Sc., Dr.-Ing. Carolin Sitzmann, and Dr. rer. nat. Nico Langhof (from left to right). Photo: UBT / Christian Wißler.

The University of Bayreuth’s researchers promote the study of high-temperature electrolysis (HTEL) as part of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s hydrogen flagship initiative (BMBF).

The H2Giga project’s objective is to conduct research, develop, and commercialize high-performance, low-cost electrolyzers to meet Germany’s demand for green hydrogen. The H2Giga project “HTs: HTEL Stacks — Ready for Gigawatt” is one of the seven “scale-up projects” in H2Giga. Sunfire is the company in charge of the project’s coordination. The Chair of Ceramic Materials Engineering has been awarded funding totaling more than €950,000 for the next nearly four years.

Green hydrogen is capable of storing enormous amounts of sustainably produced energy and transporting it across large distances. As a result, it is critical for future energy supply. Germany’s requirements are expected to total several hundred million tonnes per year.

To meet this demand, robust, efficient, and cost-effective electrolyzers are necessary to split water molecules and generate hydrogen using electrical energy derived from sustainable sources.

Electrolyzers must be manufactured in massive industrial quantities to meet the European Union’s hydrogen strategy target of 40 gigawatts of electrolysis capacity by 2030.

HTEL appears to be a viable method for producing green hydrogen. Electrolyzers are constructed with HTEL cells connected in series, referred to as HTEL stacks. However, increased involvement in research and development is required to build large-scale HTEL cells and stacks in the future. The measures address material costs, service life, innovative stack manufacturing technology, efficiency, and their application in creating hydrogen in large quantities.

This is precisely the goal of the H2Giga project “HTs: HTEL Stacks — Ready for Gigawatt.” The University of Bayreuth’s Chair of Ceramic Materials Engineering is responsible for this extraordinary research and achievement in this interdisciplinary initiative. The new electrolyzer cells and previously produced cells will be characterized thermomechanically and microstructurally.

It is unquestionably critical to sustain the cell’s strength at elevated temperatures of up to 850 °C. Prediction of the aging process and development of strategies for extending life are only achievable via scientific investigation of the interaction between thermomechanical and microstructure features.

“With the special competencies and many years of research experience we have gained in earlier projects on fuel cells and the characterisation of very thin ceramic films, we will be able to make important contributions to a sustainable energy supply based on hydrogen,” says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Stefan Schafföner, Chair of Ceramic Materials Engineering. The research work of his team will be funded retroactively from 1 May 2021 until 31 March 2025.

From May 1st, 2021 through March 31st, 2025, the study will be funded retroactively.

The University of Bayreuth’s future study will employ experimental techniques like as light and scanning electron microscopy, non-destructive pulse excitation, and X-ray diffraction. Mechanical properties of the ceramic thin films will be assessed using ring-on-ring tests and tensile testing with a laser extensometer throughout a temperature range of up to 850 °C.

This purpose will be served by the new and distinctive high-temperature universal testing equipment that was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and TechnologieAllianzOberfranken by the end of 2020.

In addition to the experimental study, simulations utilizing the finite element approach would be used to determine the service life of HTEL cells.

With the goal of industrializing the HTEL stacks, the Chair of Ceramic Materials will collaborate with a large number of academic and industrial partners on the joint project “HTs: HTEL Stacks — Ready for Gigawatt.” Sunfire GmbH in Dresden is in charge of the collaborative project’s overall organizational management.

Nedim Husomanovic

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