Novel materials and system designs for low cost, efficient and durable PEM electrolysers

Framework Programme: 
Call for proposals: 
Application area: 
Hydrogen production & Distribution


The main objective of NOVEL is to develop and demonstrate an efficient and durable PEM water electrolyser utilising the new, beyond the state of the art materials developed within the project. The electrolyser will demonstrate a capability to produce hydrogen with an efficiency of at least 75% (LHV) at rated capacity with a stack cost below €2,500/Nm3h-1 and a target lifetime in excess of 40,000 hours (< 15 μVh-1 voltage increase at constant load).


NOVEL will contribute to reach the primary goals of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) and its prevailing Annual Implementation Plan by developing a highly efficient electrolyser optimised for sustainable decentralised hydrogen production from renewable energy sources (RES). Sustainable and distributed production of hydrogen by electrolysis based on technology developed in Europe underpins one of the principal objectives of the FCH JU. To reach this goal, it is crucial that hydrogen is available at a reasonable cost and, thus, that hydrogen production technology is further developed to a mature and cost competitive level.


Water electrolysis based on PEM technology has demonstrated its applicability to produce hydrogen and oxygen in a clean and safe way. Systems have been demonstrated in a wide range of niche applications with capacities from << 1 Nl/hrs to 30 Nm^3/hrs. PEM electrolysers offer efficiency, safety and compactness benefits over alkaline electrolysers. However, these benefits have not been fully realised in distributed hydrogen generation principally due to high capital costs. Principal reasons for high capital costs of present state of the art PEM electrolyser are: - use of expensive materials (noble metals, perfluorinated ion-exchange membranes), - high material usage (e.g. catalyst loading, thickness of bipolar plates), - limited durability of the main components (membrane, electrode, current collectors and bipolar plates), - complex stack design This project will take advantage of the progress beyond the state of the art achieved by the partners involved in the NEXPEL project. In the initial phase of this project, durability studies of electrolyser stacks developed in NEXPEL will be performed. The stacks will be run at different operating conditions (low pressure, constant load, fluctuating load coupled with RES). Invaluable data and post mortem analyses can be extracted from this demonstration part of NEXPEL and fed into the further development of novel materials for and design of cost competitive, high efficiency, small scale PEM electrolysers for home/community use. The functionality of the novel materials will be proved on the laboratory scale with a small electrolysis stack in the 1-kWel range. By minimising electrochemical losses in the stack, a system design will be developed which enables an overall efficiency > 70 % (LHV). The improved materials will also be made available to current developers of PEM electrolysers to allow them to quantify the benefits, and to provide early feedback that will drive ongoing performance improvements

Project reference: 
SP1-JTI-FCH.2011.2.7 Innovative Materials and Components for PEM electrolysers
Project type: 
Research and technological development
Contract type: 
Collaborative Project
Start date: 
Saturday, September 1, 2012
End date: 
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
48 months (originally), extended to 51 months
Project cost: 
€ 5,743,445
Project funding: 
€ 2,663,357

SINTEF Materials and Chemistry, Norway

Dr Magnus Thomassen
Other participating organisations: 
Fraunhofer Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V. Germany
Commissariat A L Energie Atomique Et Aux Energies Alternatives France
Helion SAS France
Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells Limited United Kingdom
Teer Coatings Limited United Kingdom
Paul Scherrer Institute Switzerland


Publisheable Reports: 
GB16219636; Ed Wright, Emily Price; Catalyst-coated membrane having a laminate structure
Fouda-Onana Frédéric, M. Chandesris, V. Medeau, S. Chelghoum,D. Thoby, N. Guillet; Investigation on the degradation of MEAs for PEMwater electrolysers part I: Effects of testingconditions on MEA performances and membraneproperties
Marion Chandesris; Membrane degradation in PEM water electrolyzer : numerical modeling and experimental evidence of the influence of temperature and current density
Albert Albert, Alejandro O. Barnett, Magnus S. Thomassen, Thomas J. Schmidt, Lorenz Gubler; Radiation-Grafted Polymer Electrolyte Membranes for Water Electrolysis Cells: Evaluation of Key Membrane Properties
Albert Albert , Tim Lochner , Thomas J. Schmidt , L. Gubler; Stability and Degradation Mechanisms of Radiation-Grafted Polymer Electrolyte Membranes for Water Electrolysis