Pajarito Powder has on the Hannover Messe 2024 a groundbreaking catalyst technology was presented, which will significantly reduce the cost calculation for fuel cells and Electrolysis of hydrogen The innovative process reduces the amount of precious metals required for reactions to generate energy from green hydrogen required by up to 70%. To implement the Varipore process, manufacturing experts are brought on board to set up large-scale production in New Mexico.

Pajarito Powder Electrolysis of hydrogen

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Energy generation from hydrogen should become affordable

Pajarito Powder LabThe start-up Pajarito Powder has set itself the goal of generating energy from Hydrogen affordable, reliable and suitable for volume production by changing the fundamental cost calculation for energy generation from hydrogen with its innovative material design.

Significantly less platinum

With the new process technology, hydrogen fuel cells and electrolyzer catalysts can be operated with significantly less of the rare and expensive platinum while maintaining the same performance. "If you reduce iridium, the economic efficiency of hydrogen production improves dramatically and, as a result, the availability of hydrogen is significantly improved," explains Thomas J. Stephenson, CEO & Chairman of the Board of Pajarito Powder. The process reduces the amount of precious metals needed for reactions to generate energy from hydrogen by up to 70%.

Electrolysers are the key

The cleanest method for producing hydrogen for sustainable use in fuel cells is electrolysis. This uses electrical energy to split water into its two components. Electrolyzers are the best-known method for producing "green hydrogen". At the same time, they are the key to using hydrogen as an energy storage device and for transporting energy over long distances.

This raises the question of why hydrogen fuel cells and electrolyzers have not yet become established in the global economy, given all these advantages and all the scientific studies. The key lies in Catalyst, which Pajarito Powder now specializes in manufacturing, improving and making affordable. Catalysts account for almost 40% of the cost of a fuel cell stack. The cost of the iridium components of a 1 GW electrolyzer would be over $2022 million at 61 prices.

Perhaps it is this irony that hydrogen is the most abundant element, but the platinum metals needed to convert it into useful electricity, such as iridium, which are among the least common elements. Their rarity and the associated high prices prevent hydrogen, which is so suitable, from becoming an important energy source, at least for now.

New material technology makes hydrogen economical

Pajarito Powder Powder on membraneWith a new process technology, the US start-up is able to operate hydrogen fuel cells and electrolyzer catalysts with the same performance and with significantly less use of the rare and expensive material platinum. The process uses up to Precious metals which are needed for reactions to generate energy from hydrogen.

The Varipore process is used for fuel cells. This allows technical catalyst carriers (Engineered Catalyst Supports, ECS), which are based on mechanisms tailored to a specific system and improve the performance and utilization of PGMs.

These structures are mesoporousThey are designed to contain extremely small nanoscopic openings, ranging in size from 2 to 50 nm and comparable to the size of a human DNA strand.

The Varipore allows for a very specific design. As a prerequisite for starting the large-scale production of fuel cells, this process has been further developed for the mass production of this carrier. The catalysts will achieve energetically equivalent results with less platinum than standard catalysts.

In addition, the process gives the catalysts high durability, stability and performance. Following this process, Pajarito Powder produces advanced electrolyzer catalysts based on similar concepts but using other materials instead of iridium.

Avoiding rare metals opens up new market potential

Pajarito Powder FairElectrolysis technology is changing rapidly, and while iridium-based catalysts will continue to dominate the market for some time, Pajarito Powder will soon be launching additional highly efficient catalysts for water electrolysis using PGM lite- Or PGM-free materials. These materials, which are currently under development, are already available for evaluation.

The catalyst supports and complete catalyst solutions developed by Pajarito Powder are all already available. The company also researches, tests and optimizes catalysts that do not require platinum group metals. The so-called PMF catalysts (Precious-Metal-Free) catalysts for fuel cells are the world's first commercially available catalysts that do not contain precious metals. Work to further develop these catalysts for high-energy density applications is not yet complete, but their future use is promising.

Given the new technological possibilities and public funding for clean energy sources provided by the US Inflation Reduction Act and similar laws in Europe and elsewhere, Pajarito Powder presented at the Hannover Messe 2024 not only its innovative carrier material but also the commissioning of its large-scale manufacturing plant in New Mexico to produce the coating material for catalysts.

Frequently asked questions

How is hydrogen produced by electrolysis?

Electrolysis is a process for producing hydrogen in which water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using electrical energy. Electrical voltage is applied in an electrolysis cell consisting of an anode and a cathode. Oxygen is produced at the anode and hydrogen at the cathode. This process takes place without the release of CO₂ and enables the production of green hydrogen, especially when the energy comes from renewable sources. Efficiency and possible applications vary depending on the technology used (alkaline electrolysis, PEM electrolysis or solid oxide electrolysis).

How efficient is hydrogen electrolysis?

Pajarito Powder FairThe efficiency of hydrogen electrolysis depends on the technology used and typically varies between 60% and 80%. This efficiency indicates how much of the electrical energy used is converted into chemical energy in the form of hydrogen. Electrolysis is one of the most promising methods for producing green hydrogen, especially when combined with Renewable energies is operated. 

  1. Alkaline electrolysis (AEL): This traditional method achieves an efficiency of about 60% to 70%. It is technologically mature and suitable for continuous applications as it is relatively inexpensive.
  2. Proton exchange membrane electrolysis (PEM): This more advanced technology offers higher efficiency of 70% to 80%. It can respond quickly to changing energy sources, making it ideal for use with renewable energy.
  3. Solid oxide electrolysis (SOEC): This process achieves efficiencies of over 80%, especially when used in combination with high-temperature electrolysis. It is particularly efficient when waste heat can be used, which significantly increases overall energy efficiency.

How much water is needed for 1 kg of hydrogen?

To produce 1 kg of hydrogen by electrolysis, you need about 9 l waterThis water consumption results from the chemical reaction in which water (H₂O) is split into hydrogen (H₂) and oxygen (O₂). For each amount of hydrogen, proportionally 9 times more water is required. This calculation is based on the chemical formula for water electrolysis, in which 18 grams of water (equivalent to about 18 ml) are split into 2 g of hydrogen and 16 g of oxygen. This extrapolates to 9 l of water for 1 kg of hydrogen.

How much electricity is needed to produce hydrogen?

To produce 1 kg of hydrogen by electrolysis, approximately 50 to 55 kWh electricity. This energy is required to break down the water into its components, H 2 and O 2. The exact amount depends on the efficiency of the electrolysis process, which is typically between 60% and 80%.

In modern electrolysis plants, energy efficiency can be further increased through advanced technologies and the use of waste heat, which could slightly reduce electricity demand.

How effective is electrolysis?

The effectiveness of the electrolysis process is determined by its energy efficiency, which is typically between 60% and 80% This means that 60% to 80% of the electrical energy used is converted into chemical energy in the form of hydrogen. Modern technologies such as proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis and alkaline electrolysis can further optimize this efficiency depending on the system and operating point. On an industrial scale, work is continuously being done to improve efficiency in order to make hydrogen production more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

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Author information
Webb Johnson, Jeff Plungis, Thomas Aurich

The authors are: Webb Johnson, Senior Director of Business Development of Pajarito Powder; Jeff Plungis, Reporter, Editor of Scott Fosgard Communications and Thomas Aurich, technology writer.