Low-Noble-Metal-COntent Catalysts/Electrodes for Hydrogen Production by Water Electrolysis

Period of Performance: 01/01/2012 - 12/31/2012


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Proton Energy Systems
10 Technology Drive Array
Wallingford, CT 06492
Firm POC
Principal Investigator

Research Institution

Brookhaven National Laboratory
Building 817
Upton, NY 11973


Efficient, cost effective production of hydrogen from non-carbon based sources is a key barrier to widespread implementation of fuel cells for transportation and stationary power. Electrolysis is a promising technology for clean generation of pure hydrogen from water, but significant advances are required in order to provide a cost-competitive hydrogen source for energy markets. Commercial proton exchange membrane (PEM)-based electrolyzers require highly expensive catalyst materials such as platinum group metals due to the acidic environment of the membrane. However, by optimizing the catalyst electrode structure for high utilization and activity, the amount of catalyst required can be reduced to an acceptable amount for both lifecycle and capital cost. In this project, we aim to reduce the Pt content by two orders of magnitude or 99% in the cathode catalyst for hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) and significantly reduce the Ir content in the anode catalyst for oxygen evolution reaction (OER). Proton has developed collaboration over the past year and a half with the BNL electro catalysis group, which will provide key expertise in design and synthesis of core-shell nanocatalysts and innovative structure integration of catalyst synthesis and electrode fabrication. Phase 1 will focus on continued optimization of the cathode catalyst and electrode for the hydrogen evolution reaction, and identifying an effective approach for significantly improving anode performance for the OER. The synthesis methods will be developed to produce high quality catalysts at low cost for large scale production. Electrodes will be fabricated to maximize the catalyst utilization at the cathode. Proton will conduct performance and durability tests, evaluate the results against current state-of-the-art catalysts/electrodes, and will estimate the production costs including lifecycle costs using the H2A model. In Phase 2, process scale up and continued anode optimization will be performed in preparation for commercialization. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits This research and development effort is designed to transform hydrogen-based fueling into an enabling technology for the reduction of fossil fuel use by overcoming the present economic constraints preventing its widespread application. Protons electrolyzers already serve a wide variety of applications, including metals processing, chemical manufacturing, electronics manufacturing, hydrogenation, electrical generator cooling, fiber optic cable manufacturing, and argon purification. Next generation products currently under development include higher pressure systems for the fueling and energy storage markets as well as regenerative fuel cells for telecommunications backup power systems. All of these technologies are on pathways to commercialization and utilize various Government and internal sources of funding to advance their state of technical readiness. Protons mission is clearly to move advanced technology PEM products into hydrogen energy applications as those markets emerge in the coming years