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Innovative proton conducting ceramic electrolysis cells and stacks for intermediate temperature hydrogen production

Expected Outcome:

To realise the potential of hydrogen as an energy vector in the decarbonised economy it needs to be produced sustainably on a mass scale. Steam electrolysis based on proton conducting ceramic electrolysis cells (PCCEL) is a promising technology for directly producing dry hydrogen, and achieving high electrical stack efficiency and low degradation rate due to its operation at intermediate temperature, typically between 450°C and 700°C. PCCEL stack technology in Europe is currently based on tubular cells integrating Ni-cermet electrodes, BaZr1-x-yCexYyO3-d based electrolytes, and composite electrodes containing Cobalt (Co) and various rare earth elements. The intermediate operating temperature of this technology can be leveraged to replace these materials by e.g. cheaper steel-based components to reduce reliance on critical raw materials and strategic raw materials (CSRM) such as Co, rare earth elements, Nickel (Ni) etc. It will furthermore contribute to increasing lifetime by reducing thermally activated degradation and improving Faradaic efficiency. This calls for a new design approach of PCCEL cell and stack, ensuring the development of high-performance cell and stack with reduced amount of CRM and CSRM. This will further contribute to significant reduction of CAPEX of the technology.

The outcome of this topic will be an innovative low-cost cell and stack concept with improved current density than State-of-the-Art (SOA), which can be operated at intermediate temperatures (≤ 600oC) and exhibiting longer lifetime than SOA for energy efficient hydrogen production.

Project results are expected to contribute to all the following expected outcomes:

  • Novel cells and stacks designed for operational temperatures ≤ 600°C and faradaic efficiency above 90%.
  • Cells and stacks produced by scalable manufacturing techniques with potential for later integration and automation into a pilot line.
  • Strengthened European value chain on electrolyser components with decreased reliability of critical and strategic raw materials from international imports.
  • European leadership for renewable hydrogen production based on PCCEL electrolysers.

Project results are expected to contribute by the end of the project to all of the following objectives and KPIs of the Clean Hydrogen JU SRIA:

  • Demonstrate successful start-up of the stack with a hot idle ramp time of 240s and cold start ramp time of 6h;
  • Increase current density of cells above or equal to 0.75 A/cm2 at thermal neutral voltage at temperatures ≤ 600°C;
  • Demonstrate short stack based on 5 single repeating units (SRU) with minimum total stack active area of 250 cm2 operated under representative conditions over > 2000 h targeting a degradation rate < 0.5 % / 1000h;
  • Establish a roadmap for defining technological pathways enabling to reach CAPEX of 1400€/(kg/d) and OPEX of 85 €/(kg/d)/y.

Scope:

PCCEL stack technology in Europe is largely based on tubular cell design enabling pressurised operation up to 10 bar at 600°C, as demonstrated in the WINNER and GAMER projects, while recent work published in the literature also addresses planar cell and stack development. The state-of-the-art cells consist of traditional Ni-cermet electrode, BaZr1-x-yCexYyO3-d based electrolyte, and composite electrodes containing Co and various rare earth elements, exhibiting current density peaking at 0.3 A/cm2 at 600°C at thermoneutral voltage. The topic focuses on the development of new cell and stack designs aiming at improving the performance and flexibility of operation, while reducing costly ceramic-based components and critical raw materials and strategic raw materials (e.g. light and heavy rare earth materials, LREE and HREE, Ni, Co) https://www.crmalliance.eu/hrees. Improved thermal and load cycling capabilities (faster and higher number of thermal cycles) should be ensured by designing new cells and/or stacks, e.g. electrode or metal supported cells/stacks, cells with integrated interconnect/current collector/electrode, metal-based monolith cells/stacks, etc. This can be sought by nano-engineering and/or self-assembly of interfaces, integrating several functionalities in single components and/or by developing thinner layers to reduce material consumption and ohmic losses.

The new sustainable-by-design electrolysers will operate at temperature ≤ 600°C to minimise thermally induced degradation and promote efficient thermal management.

Proposals should address the following requirements:

  • Design of new cells and/or stacks e.g. metal or electrode supported cells/stacks, cells with integrated interconnect/current collector/electrode and/or metal-based monolith cells/stacks and/or intrinsically more robust cell/stack design/assembly, and validation on single cell and short stack level;
  • Dedicated test protocols at cell and/or short stack level will be developed to establish performance and degradation rate of the cell/short stack under variable load profiles. Accelerated stress tests could be applied for shortening the testing time for degradation evaluation. This task will also contribute to evaluate the flexibility of operation of the devices;
  • The stack design shall be assisted by fluid dynamics and multi-physics modelling to determine the optimal cell and stack architectures considering the specific electrochemistry and the thermal management within the stack, as well as to define optimal operating conditions of the stack;
  • Increased current density of the cells should be obtained by e.g., designing thinner electrolytes and/or new electrodes with improved materials/architectures;
  • Increased Faradaic efficiency shall be obtained by implementing materials solutions and/or by optimising operating strategy;
  • Corrosion stability of the metal-based components should be validated in relevant operating conditions, in particular for the steam side of the electrolyser, and if needed, improved by development of protective coatings;
  • Degradation mechanisms of the stack components should be identified with respect to temperature, steam content and utilisation, and pressure (for pressurised solution);
  • The cell and stack manufacturing methods should be based on processes with potential for later upscaling, automation and mass-manufacturing;
  • Techno-economic evaluation of the steam electrolyser integrated in given application(s) and considering economy of scale will provide the Levelised Cost of Hydrogen (LCOH) and will be used to provide insights into relevant business models. The CAPEX and OPEX of the novel stack concept will be evaluated;
  • Proposals are expected to address sustainability aspects via Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) by reducing the use of critical raw materials compared to state-of-art cells and/or stacks and/or their recycling.

Consortia are expected to build on the expertise from the European research and industrial community to ensure broad impact by addressing several of the aforementioned items.

Proposals should demonstrate how they go beyond the ambition of projects WINNERGAMERPROTOSTACKMETPROCELL and DAICHI European projects and be complementary to them.

For activities developing test protocols and procedures for the performance and durability assessment of electrolysers and fuel cell components proposals should foresee a collaboration mechanism with JRC (see section 2.2.4.3 "Collaboration with JRC"), in order to support EU-wide harmonisation. Test activities should adopt the already published EU harmonised testing protocols to benchmark performance and quantify progress at programme level.

For additional elements applicable to all topics please refer to section 2.2.3.2.

Activities are expected to start at TRL 2 and achieve TRL 4 by the end of the project - see General Annex B.

The JU estimates that an EU contribution of maximum EUR 3.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately.

The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter 2.2.3.2 of the Clean Hydrogen JU 2024 Annual Work Plan and in the General Annexes to the Horizon Europe Work Programme 2023–2024 which apply mutatis mutandis

Specific Topic Conditions:

Activities are expected to start at TRL 2 and achieve TRL 4 by the end of the project - See General Annex B.

General Information

Call Type
EU Horizon Europe
Eligible Country/ies
EU + Horizon Europe associated countries
Call Identifier (if any)
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2024-01-01
Expected Outcome or Impact
Expected Outcome:
To realise the potential of hydrogen as an energy vector in the decarbonised economy it needs to be produced sustainably on a mass scale. Steam electrolysis based on proton conducting ceramic electrolysis cells (PCCEL) is a promising technology for directly producing dry hydrogen, and achieving high electrical stack efficiency and low degradation rate due to its operation at intermediate temperature, typically between 450°C and 700°C. PCCEL stack technology in Europe is currently based on tubular cells integrating Ni-cermet electrodes, BaZr1-x-yCexYyO3-d based electrolytes, and composite electrodes containing Cobalt (Co) and various rare earth elements. The intermediate operating temperature of this technology can be leveraged to replace these materials by e.g. cheaper steel-based components to reduce reliance on critical raw materials and strategic raw materials (CSRM) such as Co, rare earth elements, Nickel (Ni) etc. It will furthermore contribute to increasing lifetime by reducing thermally activated degradation and improving Faradaic efficiency. This calls for a new design approach of PCCEL cell and stack, ensuring the development of high-performance cell and stack with reduced amount of CRM and CSRM. This will further contribute to significant reduction of CAPEX of the technology.

The outcome of this topic will be an innovative low-cost cell and stack concept with improved current density than State-of-the-Art (SOA), which can be operated at intermediate temperatures (≤ 600oC) and exhibiting longer lifetime than SOA for energy efficient hydrogen production.

Project results are expected to contribute to all the following expected outcomes:

- Novel cells and stacks designed for operational temperatures ≤ 600°C and faradaic efficiency above 90%.
- Cells and stacks produced by scalable manufacturing techniques with potential for later integration and automation into a pilot line.
- Strengthened European value chain on electrolyser components with decreased reliability of critical and strategic raw materials from international imports.
- European leadership for renewable hydrogen production based on PCCEL electrolysers.
Project results are expected to contribute by the end of the project to all of the following objectives and KPIs of the Clean Hydrogen JU SRIA:

- Demonstrate successful start-up of the stack with a hot idle ramp time of 240s and cold start ramp time of 6h;
- Increase current density of cells above or equal to 0.75 A/cm2 at thermal neutral voltage at temperatures ≤ 600°C;
- Demonstrate short stack based on 5 single repeating units (SRU) with minimum total stack active area of 250 cm2 operated under representative conditions over > 2000 h targeting a degradation rate &lt; 0.5 % / 1000h;
- Establish a roadmap for defining technological pathways enabling to reach CAPEX of 1400€/(kg/d) and OPEX of 85 €/(kg/d)/y.
Target Groups
Research Institutes, Academia, Small- and Medium Enterprises, Industry, Non-government organisations, Start-Ups
Submission Deadlines
Single fixed deadline
(Next) Submission Deadline
17 April 2024
Type of Funding Instrument
Collaborative Projects / Consortia
Max. funding amount per project [EURO]
8.000.000€
Overall budget for all projects [EURO]
145.000.000€
Horizon Europe project type
Research and Innovation Action (100% funding)

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Patric Gerö

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