AEM is Pushing Green Hydrogen into Reality

How anion exchange membrane changes hydrogen production and what the future holds for this important solution? A quick summary.

Driven by the fear of global warming’s effects, today’s energy landscape is shifting boldly away from fossil fuels towards sustainable alternatives. Hydrogen, especially when produced using renewable energy, offers a viable solution. It can be utilized across various sectors, replacing traditional fuels and significantly reducing CO2 and carbon emissions.

But what is the “right” way to mass-produce such green hydrogen that meets market needs while ensuring a safe and cost-effective process? The Anion Exchange Membrane (AEM) technology plays a crucial role in this transition.

How Does it Work?

In electrolysis, there are various methods for extracting hydrogen from water (H2O) molecules. These methods can be categorized by the temperature at which they operate – some work at relatively low temperatures, while others require high temperatures. From this, different technologies emerge: AWE (Alkaline Water Electrolysis) and PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) are rather low-temperature technologies in comparison to high-temperature SOEC technology.

The AWE method has been around for over a century. While it is a well-established technology, it has several drawbacks. Its advantages include using inexpensive and abundant catalytic raw materials; however, it is highly inefficient and lacks the flexibility to effectively interface with variable energy sources. AWE technology is large and bulky, more suitable for gigawatt-scale applications where vast amounts of electricity are converted into hundreds of tons of hydrogen that can be used as feedstock for a variety of chemicals production, mostly ammonia.

On the other hand, unlike alkaline electrolysis, PEM uses a polymer that conducts ions. This allows PEM technology to be more compact and better suited for interfacing with renewable energy sources. Nonetheless, there are a few issues with this method. One of them lies in the raw materials it uses, catalysts which are very expensive and rare, and perfluorinated membranes. The growing awareness regarding PFAS materials, coupled with regulatory concerns, could potentially become detrimental for PEM technology.

Another issue with PEM is the requirement for extremely pure water feed, necessitating an additional water purification system, which increases costs.

Unlike other methods, AEM combines the benefits of both AWE and PEM technologies, making it particularly suited for interfacing with renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. The AEM method addresses most of these problems by utilizing a polymer membrane that conducts anions in a basic environment. It can dynamically produce hydrogen from water without relying on expensive, rare, and costly catalysts, while being easily compatible with alternative power sources.

Focusing on Multi-Megawatt Scale

“We have several unique patents in this technology’s evolution that we are very proud of,” states Hydrolite’s CEO Dr. Ervin Tal-Gutelmacher, who holds a pivotal position in the AEM hydrogen production market. “We were pioneers in developing AEM technology, and recently, more companies and startups have emerged in this field, recognizing it as the next generation of electrolyzers and green hydrogen production.”

“From a technological standpoint, we bring a unique membrane electrode assembly that could be a game-changer in terms of cost, materials, and manufacturing,” she continues. “Our membrane is made from simple, widely available polymers using production processes similar to those for plastic bags, making it a commodity process. As it constitutes a significant cost component, Hydrolite’s unique membrane can reduce costs by up to 90% compared to competing membranes.”

And if that is not enough, Hydrolite also holds a patent that allows the use of “dirty” water, such as tap water or brackish water, in the electrolysis process. This innovation opens up a wide range of possibilities.

Tal-Gutelmacher explains, “We focus on the multi-megawatt scale. Once we enter this segment, the applications can be diverse – ranging from hydrogen production for industrial applications and hydrogen as a fuel, to hydrogen production for refueling stations and medium-sized solar farms.”

To conclude, she remarks, “Everyone involved in this field is driven by the desire to improve humanity, creating a much greener and better environment for all.”

In the future, as AEM technology becomes more practical and provides high performance while breaking the cost barrier of green hydrogen, it will significantly impact the market. “With a combination of high efficiency and excellent performance, AEM technology will potentially enter the market as a viable solution for megawatt and multi-megawatt applications,” the CEO promises.