A unique alkaline water electrolysis test rig has been built and commissioned at the University of Manchester using Royce ICP funding. The rig, designed by industrial partner INEOS, will be used to test materials for deployment into full scale multi-MW electrolysers, as well as fundamental research into the processes that occur at real industrial conditions.
Alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) is the most commercially established form of electrolytic hydrogen production and will account for over half of green hydrogen production in the foreseeable future (Electrolysers, IEA report, 2022). Despite this market dominance, out of the hundreds of reports for hydrogen and oxygen evolution catalysts in alkaline media, only a handful use conditions relevant to real world AWE electrolysers (e.g. Materials, 12, 2019, 1336). The new test rig built here addresses this key issue and allows for the enhanced development of AWE technology, ultimately reducing the cost of green hydrogen.
Following an INEOS design and support from INEOS scientists/engineers, UoM staff built and commissioned an advanced AWE single cell test station. This allows the evaluation of new cell components, in particular electrocatalysts for hydrogen and oxygen evolution at real world conditions (90oC, 30% KOH, 10 kA m-2, >1000 hours operation). The test rig is a highly sophisticated research tool. Examples of rig data are given in Figure 1 below. Numerous ports allow the sampling of electrolyte and gases, providing information on the separator performance end electrode durability.
Royce provided the funding to build and commission the rig. The grant covered the cost of all the rig parts and the labour involved in the build process.
The facility will initially be used to develop new electrocatalysts for AWE electrolysers, in particular precious metal free cathodes and anodes. Promising electrocatalysts will then be tested by INEOS at their AWE demonstration cell facility, with a clear route to market implementation involving manufacturing at plants in Northwich (coatings) and Stafford (cell components). All work will be conducted at real industrial AWE conditions, The test rig will also be used to test new cell components/designs and can be easily adapted to other modes of electrolysis if required (e.g. CO2 reduction).
“The new facility will allow the thorough evaluation of electrocatalysts and cell components at real world conditions for alkaline water electrolysis, the most deployed water electrolysis technology to date.This collaboration between INEOS and the University of Manchester will enhance the development of the technology, ultimately reducing the cost of green hydrogen.”
Professor Robert Dryfe, University of Manchester
INEOS Electrochemical Solutions (IES) is a leading supplier of electrolyser technology and electrocatalytic coatings. Over the past few years, IES has developed an alkaline water electrolyser for use at industrial scale (multi MW plants).
The University of Manchester has a strong track record of developing materials for electrochemical applications, with great expertise in understanding and probing electrochemical reaction mechanisms, a key issue in developing high performance durable electrocatalysts for green hydrogen production. By building the new test facility at Manchester, the project team have started a collaboration that should enhance the development of AWE electrolysers. Using research conducted at Royce and INEOS, the team will design and formulate the next generation of AWE electrocatalytic coatings.
The project was a collaboration between the University of Manchester and INEOS Electrochemical Solutions (part of INEOS, a large enterprise). INEOS are also supporting a PhD student (split-site), working between the academic partner labs (UoM) and the INEOS Runcorn site.