Innovative electrolysis cells for hydrogen production
Water electrolysis for hydrogen production is a mature and well-established technology with major industrial deployments since the beginning of last century. Nevertheless, it still needs significant improvements. Despite the incremental type of research, a seek for breakthrough solutions should be incorporated into the research performed to transform the technology. These can include novel designs of the cells, as well as application of the disruptive components and introduction of innovative ideas synergistically resulting in systems able, through the continuity of the further research, to fulfil the needs of the gigawatt sized storage of renewable energy.
However, potential availability of systems of such magnitude is quickly transforming electrolytic hydrogen into an industrial commodity and significant barriers with regards to the use of electrolyser devices at such scale remain. Green hydrogen is on average still more expensive than hydrogen produced from reformatted natural gas. Henceforth, innovative actions will be required to: i) remarkably improve the voltage efficiency of water electrolysers ii) dramatically reduce the cost of these devices with the largest share for capital cost still occurring at the stack level, iii) reach durability and robustness levels that are compatible with today’s stationary energy systems and iv) address breakthrough solutions for innovative processes such as direct electrolysis of sea water and wastewater.
Hence, the development of disruptive components and cell concepts leading to a dramatical change in efficiency, lifetime, and reducing the total cost of ownership of hydrogen in electrolysis is the goal, transforming these electrolysers into devices of next generation. To the most part, classic alkaline (AEL) and polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysis have stacks with materials and components that were developed in the last century. Thick inorganic diaphragms, rudimentary designs for electrodes and porous transport layers, PGM based catalysts and protective layers, and membranes that still fail to avoid gas-crossover at high differential pressure, can be significantly improved for next generation water electrolysers.
Innovative electrolysis cells can be only achieved by a multidisciplinary approach combining outstanding advances such as but not limited to materials science, nano-engineering, bio-hybrids catalysts (such as natural or engineered enzymes, peptides and protein based-maquettes or whole cells interfaced with electroactive materials and/or polymers or combined with organometallics clusters from separate synthesis), and innovative manufacturing approaches. It is expected creation of materials, components, and innovative cell designs that can completely change the paradigm of hydrogen production using devices with improved levels of efficiency, cost, and durability.
Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:
- Transform electrolysers into next generation devices with a higher level of competitiveness in comparison to classic AEL and PEM electrolysers.
- Develop materials that can be used in and/or adapted to water electrolysers. These materials should be fabricated into components with high efficiency, stability, recyclability, no CRMs, the ability to mass-production and a circular-economy character.
- Open new ways for disruptive concepts towards performance levels close to the theoretical Higher Heating Value (HHV) of these electrolysers, i.e., higher to what is typically observed in cells and stacks for conventional AELs and PEMELs.
Project results are expected to contribute to the following objectives and KPIs of the Clean Hydrogen JU SRIA:
- Strongly reduce the overall use of critical raw materials in the fabrication of cell/stack components to < 1.25 mg/W per cell for PEM electrolysers, and to < 0.3 mg/W for alkaline cells.
- Decrease the electricity consumption at nominal capacity aiming at values below 48 kWh/kg of hydrogen.
- Eliminate or dramatically reduce interface resistance values across cell components.
- Develop diaphragms, membranes, or membrane-less electrolysers that can operate at minimum 5% of partial load operation (nominal load 2 A/cm2 for PEM and 0.5 A/cm2 for alkaline cells) without exceeding 0.4 % of H2 concentration in O2.
- Long-term stable and efficient materials for high-current density operation, i.e., 1.0 A/cm2 for AEL and 3.0 A/cm2 for PEM. Scope :
This topic aims at the development of new and disruptive cell concepts for improving efficiency, lifetime, and hydrogen production processes in the field of water electrolysis, while replacing costly materials on components of the cell and stack. The topic seeks the integration of recent advances in materials science and modern characterisation/fabrication tools, merged into innovative lab scale developments of components of electrolysis cells. The target is to realise at least single cells of TRL 4 and validate all innovative approaches using single cells and short stacks with min. 5 cells.
Proposals should explore more than one of the following innovations:
- Alternative pathways to the oxygen evolution reaction by new anode approaches which allow to reduce the anode potential in acidic media;
- Inclusion of redox mediators to separate anode and cathode reactions;
- Use of nano-engineering, bio-hybrid electrocatalyst materials or integrated multi-functional components as innovative strategies to improve cell performances;
- Application/development of catalysts with low overpotential and combined to low-cost elements (e.g., Fe, Ni, steel), bridging a gap to have stable and low-cost production;
- Novel concepts of triple-phase boundary electrodes (catalyst-support-ionomer) with catalyst utilisation close to 100% and improved thermo-mechanical stability;
- Create novel concepts of membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) with integrated components (Porous Transport Electrodes (PTEs)), simplified and environmentally friendly manufacturing methods;
- Novel cell design to enhance overall cell efficiency by integrating disruptive concepts (e.g., flow fields using new fluid dynamic effects, novel concepts of micro-fluidic and capillary-fed electrolysers, optimised interfaces between cell materials, or innovative stack components designs);
- Optimised thermal management, e.g., avoiding hot spots in the cells as major cause for catalyst and separator degradation;
- Consortia are expected to build on the expertise coming from both research and industrial community to ensure broad impact by addressing several of the aforementioned items.
Development of Solid-oxide or Proton Conductive materials and cells are excluded from the scope of this specific topic.
It is expected to have access to application based as well as manufacturability requirements (through direct participation of a manufacturing company and/or through an advisory board), to foresee a scaling up of the validated solution.
Proposals are expected to collaborate and explore synergies with the projects supported under topics HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -07-02: ‘Increasing the lifetime of electrolyser stacks’ and HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2022-07-01: ‘Addressing the sustainability and criticality of electrolyser and fuel cell materials’.
Applicants are encouraged to address sustainability and circularity aspects in the activities proposed.
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 18.104.22.168 "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.
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 22.214.171.124 of the Clean Hydrogen JU 2023 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.
- Admissibility conditions: described in Annex A and Annex E of the Horizon Europe Work Programme General Annexes
Proposal page limits and layout: described in Part B of the Application Form available in the Submission System
- Eligible countries: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes
A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon Europe projects. See the information in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide .
- Other eligibility conditions: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes
Additional eligibility condition: Maximum contribution per topic
For some topics, in line with the Clean Hydrogen JU SRIA, an additional eligibility criterion has been introduced to limit the Clean Hydrogen JU requested contribution mostly for actions performed at high TRL level, including demonstration in real operational environment and with important involvement from industrial stakeholders and/or end users such as public authorities. Such actions are expected to leverage co-funding as commitment from stakeholders. It is of added value that such leverage is shown through the private investment in these specific topics. Therefore, proposals requesting contributions above the amounts specified per each topic below will not be evaluated:
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -01-05: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 10.00 million
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -01-06: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 10.00 million
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -01-07: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 15.00 million
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -02-01: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 20.00 million
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -02-04: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 5.00 million
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -02-05: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 5.00 million
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -03-01: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 5.00 million
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -04-03: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 6.00 million
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -04-04: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 6.00 million
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -06-01: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 20.00 million
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -06-02: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 9.00 million
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -07-01: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 10.00 million
HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -07-02: The maximum Clean Hydrogen JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 10.00 million
Additional eligibility condition: Membership to Hydrogen Europe / Hydrogen Europe Research
For some topics, in line with the Clean Hydrogen JU SRIA, an additional eligibility criterion has been introduced to ensure that one partner in the consortium is a member of either Hydrogen Europe or Hydrogen Europe Research. This concerns topics targeting actions for large-scale demonstrations, flagship projects and strategic research actions, where the industrial and research partners of the Clean Hydrogen JU are considered to play a key role in accelerating the commercialisation of hydrogen technologies by being closely linked to the Clean Hydrogen JU constituency, which could further ensure full alignment with the SRIA of the JU. This approach shall also ensure the continuity of the work performed within projects funded through the H2020 and FP7, by building up on their experience and consolidating the EU value-chain. This applies to the following topics:
Financial and operational capacity and exclusion: described in Annex C of the Work Programme General Annexes
Evaluation and award:
Award criteria, scoring and thresholds are described in Annex D of the Work Programme General Annexes
Exemption to evaluation procedure: complementarity of projects For some topics in order to ensure a balanced portfolio covering complementary approaches, grants will be awarded to applications not only in order of ranking but at least also to one additional project that is / are complementary, provided that the applications attain all thresholds. - HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -01-01 - HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -03-01 Seal of Excellence For the two topics in the Call addressing Hydrogen Valleys, the ‘Seal of Excellence’ will be awarded to applications exceeding all of the evaluation thresholds set out in this Annual Work Programme but cannot be funded due to lack of budget available to the call. This will further improve the chances of good proposals, otherwise not selected, to find alternative funding in other Union programmes, including those managed by national or regional Managing Authorities. With prior authorisation from the applicants, the Clean Hydrogen JU may share information concerning the proposal and the evaluation with interested financing authorities. In this Annual Work Programme ‘Seal of Excellence’ will be awarded for the following topic(s): - HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -06-01
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -06-02
To ensure a balanced portfolio covering covering complementaryapproaches, grants will be awarded to applications not only in order of ranking but at least also to one additional project that is / are complementary, provided that the applications attain all thresholds.
- Indicative timeline for evaluation and grant agreement: described in Annex F of the Work Programme General Annexes
- Legal and financial set-up of the grants: described in Annex G of the Work Programme General Annexes
In addition to the standard provisions, the following specific provisions in the model grant agreement will apply:
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), background and results, access rights and rights of use (article 16 and Annex 5 of the Model Grant Agreement (MGA)).
An additional information obligation has been introduced for topics including standardisation activities: ‘Beneficiaries must, up to 4 years after the end of the action, inform the granting authority if the results could reasonably be expected to contribute to European or international standards’. These concerns the topics below:
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -02-02
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -05-03 Ownership of results
For all topics in this Work Programme Clean Hydrogen JU shall have the right to object to transfers of ownership of results, or to grants of an exclusive licence regarding results, if: (a) the beneficiaries which generated the results have received Union funding; (b) the transfer or licensing is to a legal entity established in a non-associated third country; and (c) the transfer or licensing is not in line with Union interests. The grant agreement shall contain a provision in this respect.
Full capitalised costs for purchases of equipment, infrastructure or other assets purchased specifically for the action
For some topics, in line with the Clean Hydrogen JU SRIA, mostly large-scale demonstrators or flagship projects specific equipment, infrastructure or other assets purchased specifically for the action (or developed as part of the action tasks) can exceptionally be declared as full capitalised costs. This concerns the topics below:
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -01-05
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -01-06
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -01-07
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -02-01
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -02-04
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -02-05
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -03-01
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -04-03
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -04-04
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -06-01
- HORIZON-JTI-CLEANH2-2023 -06-02 Subcontracting: For all topics: an additional obligation regarding subcontracting has been introduced, namely that subcontracted work may only be performed in target countries set out in the call conditions. The beneficiaries must ensure that the subcontracted work is performed in the countries set out in the call conditions. The target countries are all Member States of the European Union and all Associated Countries.
- Specific conditions: described in the chapter 126.96.36.199 of the Clean Hydrogen JU 2023 Annual Work Programme
Application form — As well available in the Submission System from January 31st 2023
Model Grant Agreement (MGA)
Clean Hydrogen JU - Annual Work Programme 2023 (AWP 2023)