ARKANSAS, January 3 (Future Headlines)- Green hydrogen has emerged as a critical player in decarbonizing various economic sectors, including transportation, power generation, food systems, and the chemicals industry. While the cost of green hydrogen has been gradually decreasing, a significant challenge remains in making it more economically viable than conventional methods. Researchers worldwide are now turning to perovskites, a versatile material that has already shown promise in solar technology, to revolutionize high-temperature electrolysis systems for efficient and cost-effective green hydrogen production. This article explores the recent breakthroughs in utilizing perovskites for solid oxide electrolysis and their potential to reshape the landscape of green hydrogen technology.
Currently, the primary source of global hydrogen supply involves the use of natural gas, with coal playing a smaller role. However, the shift towards low-cost renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, has prompted the exploration of more sustainable methods for hydrogen production. Green hydrogen, produced through the electrolysis of water using renewable energy, is gaining traction. Despite its potential, the cost of green hydrogen remains relatively high, with an average of $5.00 per kilogram compared to $1.50 for hydrogen derived from natural gas.
To enhance the efficiency of green hydrogen production, researchers are investigating alternatives to conventional low-temperature proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis systems. These low-temperature systems, operating below 100 degrees Celsius, are readily available but exhibit limited efficiency. Solid oxide technology, which operates at higher temperatures exceeding 600 degrees Celsius, has emerged as a potential solution. The challenge lies in developing cost-effective catalysts that can withstand such high temperatures.
Perovskites, synthetic versions of the mineral perovskite, have become a focal point in this quest for efficient solid oxide electrolysis systems. Initially recognized for their potential to boost solar conversion efficiencies while lowering costs, perovskites are now being explored to replace expensive materials in high-temperature electrolysis.
Researchers at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) reported a significant breakthrough involving a perovskite-based nanocatalyst. This catalyst more than doubled the hydrogen production rate and operated for over 400 hours at 650 degrees Celsius in a solid oxide electrolysis system. The study, published in the Chemical Engineering Journal, demonstrated the feasibility of using perovskite nanocatalysts at a commercial scale with full automation.
The researchers focused on addressing the thermal stability limitations of nanomaterials in high-temperature solid oxide cells (SOCs). They developed a technique to grow extremely small, thermally stable perovskite nanocatalysts on the inner surface of electrodes, eliminating impurities. The success of this approach represents a significant step forward in overcoming barriers associated with high-temperature nanomaterials and accelerating the commercialization of SOC technology.
In the United States, the Department of Energy has been exploring ways to utilize excess steam from nuclear power plants for hydrogen production since the early 2000s. Although there is some debate about whether nuclear hydrogen qualifies as “green,” it presents an opportunity to store excess energy. Researchers at the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory made a breakthrough in 2020 by using a perovskite oxide material in a protonic ceramic electrochemical cell (PCEC) to produce electricity without additional hydrogen. This innovation marked a significant step toward cost-effective, high-temperature electrolysis.
The Idaho team’s perovskite-based electrode material allowed for self-sustainable, reversible operation at temperatures between 400 and 600 degrees Celsius. The 3D meshlike architecture of the electrode, combined with the new material, enabled the PCEC to efficiently split hydrogen from steam, showcasing its potential for high-temperature electrolysis.
The Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory has been contributing to the field of powder synthesis, focusing on next-generation ceramic materials used in solid oxide electrolysis cells (SOECs). These cells play a crucial role in generating hydrogen from renewable sources. Scalable powder synthesis is essential for developing lower-cost and more reliable SOECs. Argonne emphasizes the goal of decarbonizing the power generation sector and achieving affordable hydrogen generation through high-temperature solid oxide cells.
The Idaho National Laboratory is actively involved in the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2), a collaboration that aims to coordinate clean hydrogen activities across Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. As one of the recipients of the Department of Energy’s $8 billion regional Clean Hydrogen Hub funding, MachH2 focuses on deploying advanced nuclear and renewable energy technologies for electrolysis systems. The lab’s expertise in high-temperature electrolysis positions it as a key player in advancing the commercialization of next-generation solid oxide technology.
Reporting by Kevin Wood; Editing by Sarah White