Cheaper green hydrogen technology developed by Japanese manufacturersJune 6, 2023
Toshiba and Toray industries are working on producing cheaper green hydrogen.
As part of the efforts focused on promoting the use of clean-burning fuel in Japan, Toshiba and Toray Industries are developing new green hydrogen technology for PEM electrolyzers that can generate less expensive clean hydrogen.
The price of iridium is 2.5 times that of gold.
The reason that this matters is electrodes containing iridium are required for polymer electrolyte membranes (PEM) which are used by electrolyzers. PEM electrolyzers are commonly used to make renewable H2. The electrolyzer breaks down molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.
Iridium is a rare metal. In a given year, only about 10 tons of it is produced worldwide. In the face of demand from the green hydrogen industry, the price of iridium is now 2.5 times higher than gold.
As such, reducing PEM electrolyzers’ reliance on this rare metal is an important step toward lowering the cost of this green hydrogen technology. Toshiba has found a way to do just that.
Toshiba created a green hydrogen technology that reduces iridium content by nine-tenths in PEM electrolyzers.
More importantly, at the same time that this new green hydrogen technology lowers iridium content, it maintains the same output and durability. The company achieved this by developing an iridium oxide nanosheet catalyst.
Requiring less iridium means that producing green hydrogen costs less. As it is expected that hydrogen electrolyzers will start entering mainstream use by the middle of the decade, the discoveries of new green hydrogen technology have become increasingly critical.
By 2050, Japan aims to have the cost of supplying hydrogen to 20 yen (14 cents) per cubic meter, which is significantly lower than today’s 100 yen (72 cents). Beyond Toshiba, other Japanese industry giants are developing ways to lower the cost of hydrogen production.
Other electrolyzer technology projects.
Like Toshiba, Toray is also focused on improving PEM electrolyzers, and has developed a higher-performing and stronger electrolyte membrane that uses hydrocarbons in place of fluoride. A membrane with higher production efficiency lowers the cost of producing hydrogen. Products with this new membrane are expected to be ready in the next couple of years.
Panasonic Holdings has set its sights on innovative alkaline electrolyzers (which don’t use expensive metals like PEM electrolyzers) by lowering the size of nickel and iron to nanometers to create a catalyst. This would lower production costs as well as increase production efficiency. Trials could begin for this green hydrogen technology as early as 2025.
Meanwhile, Denso revealed earlier this year that it is developing solid oxide electrolyzer technology. This type of electrolyzer generates hydrogen from steam at 600 Celsius – 800 Celsius rather than liquid water. The high temperature makes the water splitting process easier, which makes the electrolyzers anywhere from 10 –20% more efficient than other types.
According to the International Energy Agency, through last year, the total capacity of electrolyzers installed was about 1 GW. By 2030, this capacity is expected to hit 134 GW.
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