Hydrogen production through conventional methods still depends on fossil fuels, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Using AEM Electrolysis to produce Green Hydrogen is a promising solution for decarbonising this sector as well as many linked sectors such as transportation, industry, and power generation. By 2050, carbon-neutral ‘green’ hydrogen will deliver a significant proportion of the world’s energy and become a multi-trillion-dollar industry. In India, the buzz towards green hydrogen started after the National Green Hydrogen Mission was approved by the Union Cabinet in 2022. The intended objectives of the policy are to make India a leading producer and supplier of Green Hydrogen in the world and create domestic infrastructure and export opportunities for this renewable fuel and its derivatives. By supplementing the production of green hydrogen, the government aims to decarbonise major industries, including iron and steel and ammonia, and encourage research and development into the Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) that are powered by hydrogen. This article explores the principle of AEM electrolysis, the advantages and challenges of AEM electrolysis and the scope of business in and around green hydrogen manufacturing, transport storage, etc.
Potential of using hydrogen as a fuel
Hydrogen is an energy carrier that has the potential to play a significant role in the transition towards a clean, sustainable, and low-carbon future for India. Anion exchange membrane or AEM Electrolysis to produce Green Hydrogen is a promising technology for green hydrogen production.
AEM electrolysis of water using renewable energy from solar, wind, and hydropower has the potential for industrial-scale production, reducing the cost of hydrogen production and increasing the efficiency of electrolysis. The price of hydrogen will be broadly determined by distribution and manufacturing costs.
The factors that drive the cost of AEM Electrolysis to produce Green Hydrogen are the price of renewable energy and high investment costs. But with the strategic use of technologies present domestically and internationally and utilising the support and incentives that the government offers, setting up a Hydrogen manufacturing plant is possible. The potential market and the profit that can be made from this business will depend on factors such as:
- Hydrogen price for the end customer
- Available supporting infrastructure
- Local availability
- Competition for alternative technologies
What is AEM Electrolysis?
Hydrogen can be produced from energy from natural gas, biomass, or water, through different processes such as steam methane reforming, biomass gasification, or water electrolysis. Green Hydrogen is produced through the eco-friendly electrolysis of water using renewable energy, such as wind or solar power. Water electrolysis is the only feasible technology for the production of green hydrogen and can be scaled to meet such a demand. As the market for green hydrogen is bound to grow rapidly, it becomes crucial to understand the Anion-exchange membrane or AEM Electrolysis to produce Green Hydrogen, the only feasible technology for its production.
AEM Electrolysis produces Green Hydrogenuses an electric current to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Electrolysis can be performed using two types of electrolytes: acidic electrolytes and alkaline electrolytes. In acidic electrolysis, hydrogen ions (H+) are produced at the anode, while oxygen gas (O2) is produced at the cathode. In alkaline electrolysis, hydroxide ions (OH-) are produced at the cathode, while hydrogen gas (H2) is produced at the cathode.
Principle of AEM Electrolysis
AEM electrolysis is a type of alkaline electrolysis that uses an anion exchange membrane (AEM) as the electrolyte. AEMs are ion-conducting membranes that allow the transport of negatively charged ions (anions) while blocking the transport of positively charged ions (cations). In AEM electrolysis, water is split into hydrogen gas and hydroxide ions at the cathode, while oxygen gas and anions are produced at the anode. The hydroxide ion produced at the cathode side then reacts with the anions produced at the anode to form water. The following equations can represent the chemical reactions that occur in AEM electrolysis:
Cathode reaction: 2H2O + 2e- → H2 + 2OH-
Anode reaction: 2OH- → O2 + 2e-
Overall reaction: 2H2O → 2H2 + O2
Advantages of using AEM Electrolysis to produce Green Hydrogen
The overall cost of hydrogen depends on the efficiency, the ability to vary electricity use, and the capital cost of the system. Using AEM electrolysis for green hydrogen production has several advantages over conventional alkaline and acidic electrolysis, such as
AEM electrolysis has the potential to achieve higher efficiencies than conventional electrolysis. The use of AEMs allows for the use of higher current densities, which can increase the efficiency of electrolysis. In addition, AEM electrolysis can operate at lower temperatures and pressures, which reduces the energy required for electrolysis.
AEM electrolysis has the potential to reduce the cost of hydrogen production. Using AEM Electrolysis to produce Green Hydrogen is cheaper than the membranes used in conventional electrolysis, such as Nafion membranes. In addition, AEM electrolysis can operate at lower temperatures and pressures, which reduces the cost of the system components. Furthermore, AEM electrolysis can use low-cost and abundant catalysts like nickel or iron instead of expensive precious metal catalysts like platinum or iridium.
Compatibility with Renewable Energy
AEM Electrolysis to produce Green Hydrogen is a technology that is compatible with renewable energy sources, such as solar power or wind, can provide the electricity required for electrolysis. Using renewable energy sources can further reduce the carbon footprint of hydrogen production and increase the sustainability of the process.
AEM electrolysis can be scaled up for industrial-scale production of hydrogen. Using low-cost and abundant materials and compatibility with renewable energy sources make AEM electrolysis a scalable and sustainable technology for green hydrogen production.
Challenges of AEM Electrolysis
Despite the advantages of using AEM Electrolysis to produce Green Hydrogen, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed by the proponent while choosing the machinery when setting up the plant to make this production commercially viable.
The stability of AEMs is a critical factor that affects the performance and durability of AEM electrolysis. AEMs can degrade over time due to chemical or mechanical stresses, reducing their ionic conductivity and selectivity. The development of stable and durable AEMs is crucial for commercialising AEM electrolysis.
Catalyst Activity and Stability
The activity and stability of the catalysts used in AEM electrolysis also affect the performance and durability of the system. The triggers can degrade over time due to corrosion, poisoning, or leaching, reducing their activity and stability. The development of efficient and stable catalysts is essential for the commercialisation of AEM electrolysis.
Integrating AEM electrolysis for green hydrogen production requires the development of efficient and reliable control and monitoring systems. Optimising the system design and operation can further improve the efficiency and sustainability of AEM Electrolysis to produce Green Hydrogen.
Future Potential of AEM Electrolysis for Green Hydrogen Production
Despite the challenges, AEM electrolysis has the potential to become a key technology for green hydrogen production. AEM electrolysis can reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of electrolysis, making green hydrogen more competitive with conventional hydrogen production methods. AEM electrolysis can also provide a scalable and sustainable solution for green hydrogen production, compatible with renewable energy sources and low-cost and abundant materials.
Several research efforts are underway to address the challenges of AEM electrolysis and optimise its performance and durability. The development of stable and durable AEMs and efficient and stable catalysts is crucial for commercialising AEM electrolysis. Integrating AEM electrolysis into the hydrogen production system will also require developing efficient and reliable control and monitoring systems.
AEM Electrolysis to produce Green Hydrogen is a promising solution for decarbonising various sectors and transitioning towards a sustainable, low-carbon future. AEM electrolysis has several advantages over conventional electrolysis, such as high efficiency, low cost, compatibility with renewable energy, and scalability. However, challenges still need to be addressed to make AEM electrolysis commercially viable, such as membrane stability, catalyst activity and stability, and system integration. The development of stable and durable AEMs and efficient and stable catalysts, as well as the optimisation of system design and operation, can further improve the efficiency and sustainability of AEM electrolysis. With further research and development efforts, AEM electrolysis can become a crucial technology for green hydrogen production and contribute to the transition towards a clean, sustainable, and low-carbon future.