Press Release 078/2021

Hydrogen Technologies: KIT Is Involved in All Three German Lead Projects

Research to Accelerate Production, Transportation, and Use of Green Hydrogen
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At Energy Lab 2.0., KIT’s scientists study and test hydrogen and associated processes. (Photo: Markus Breig, KIT)

Hydrogen technologies essentially contribute to the success of the energy transition. To push a green hydrogen economy, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funds three lead projects with up to EUR 740 million. Researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are involved in all three projects. They cover direct production at sea of green hydrogen and its derivates, new technologies and solutions for hydrogen transportation, and series manufacture of electrolysis plants for the production of green hydrogen with regenerative electric energy.

Green hydrogen can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is the key to Germany’s climate neutrality by 2045. For instance, hydrogen may be used as a fuel, auxiliary, and basic material in industry and it can be converted into power and heat with the help of fuel cells for power and heat supply of houses. Trucks, trains, ships, and airplanes may be fueled with hydrogen and hydrogen may be used as a raw material for the production of synthetic fuels. Together with partners from industry, science, and associations from all over Germany, scientists of KIT work on the further development of the required technologies in the three lead projects: H₂Mare studies possibilities to directly produce hydrogen and its derivates at sea with the help of wind energy plants. In TransHyDE, the partners develop, evaluate, and demonstrate hydrogen-based technologies and solutions for hydrogen transportation. H₂Giga studies series production of water electrolyzers, i.e. plants for hydrogen generation with electric power.

“Hydrogen is indispensable for the massive reduction of CO₂ emissions and the success of the energy transition. KIT can make decisive contributions based on its decades of experience relating to hydrogen, ranging from fundamental research to concrete applications,” says Professor Holger Hanselka, President of KIT. “We contribute this know-how to the lead projects of the federation and, together with the partners from research, politics, and society, we create new synergies to quickly derive solutions.”

H₂Mare: Hydrogen Production at Sea

Offshore wind parks, that is wind turbines at sea, complement wind parks on land. Their construction is being pushed significantly at the moment. Thanks to the constant good wind conditions at sea and the high number of full-load hours, the offshore energy yield is far higher than on land. The H₂Mare lead project aims at the direct use of offshore wind energy without connection to the grid for the production of the green hydrogen by water electrolysis, for instance. The goals are to reduce costs of green hydrogen and to increase economic efficiency. “KIT’s research focuses on how we can use the green hydrogen produced on an offshore platform directly for the production of easily transportable products, such as liquefied methane, liquid hydrocarbons, methanol, and ammonia for chemical industry or for fuels,” says Professor Roland Dittmeyer from KIT’s Institute for Micro Process Engineering (IMVT). “To test dynamic operation of power-to-X facilities directly coupled to offshore wind parks, we use our power-to-X complex at KIT’s Energy Lab 2.0. “The transportable, container-based research platform e XPlore developed by KIT and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) will be used for a first close-to-reality operation of the complete power-to-X process chain under maritime conditions.

The KIT institutes involved in H₂Mare are the IMVT that also coordinates PtX-Wind, one of four joint projects, and the Engler-Bunter Institute (EBI).

TransHyDE: Transport Solutions for Green Hydrogen

Hydrogen is hardly ever used where it is produced. To cover the needs in Germany, it must be transported or imported from wind, and sun-rich regions. For this reason, the lead project TransHyDE studies and develops transport technologies and infrastructures for green hydrogen. “At maximum purity, liquid hydrogen also has the highest energy density. At KIT, we use the energy and cold of liquid hydrogen for electrical engineering applications, such as energy transport in high-temperature superconductors or drive trains of vehicles,” says Professor Tabea Arndt from KIT’s Institute for Technical Physics (ITEP). High-temperature superconductors allow energy-efficient transportation of electrical power and chemical energy. “In addition, we develop safety strategies for materials and use beyond industrial facilities,” Arndt adds. At KIT’s facilities, researchers can study and implement the complete chain from hydrogen liquefaction to energy technology applications to fuel cell heating.

The KIT institutes involved in TransHyDE are the Institute for Technical Physics that coordinates the “AppLHy!” joint project on liquid hydrogen transportation, the Institute for Applied Materials – Materials Science and Engineering (IAM-WK), the Institute for Thermal Energy Technology and Safety (ITES), and the Institute of Electrical Engineering (ETI).

H₂Giga: Series Production of Electrolysis for Hydrogen Generation

Green hydrogen can be produced by electrolysis with renewable energies and applied as a fuel in various ways. Production of electrolyzers, i.e. plants for the generation of hydrogen using electrical power, however, is complex and costly. The H₂Giga lead project covers series and low-cost production of electrolyzers in order to cover Germany’s need for green hydrogen. Within this lead platform, KIT is involved in two joint projects.

Within “HTEL-Stacks – Ready for Gigawatt,” the partners plan to develop stacks for high-temperature electrolysis as well as the corresponding production processes and plants. “Electrolysis at high temperatures needs less cost-intensive electrical power and the increased need for thermal energy may be covered by the heat loss of the cell. High-temperature electrolysis can reach efficiencies of up to 100 percent, current systems already reach more than 80 percent,” says Dr. André Weber from KIT’s Institute for Applied Materials – Electrochemical Technologies (IAM-ET). “At KIT, we analyze the capacity and service life of high-temperature cells and stack components with the help of electrochemical and electron microscopy methods.” The project is coordinated by Sunfire GmbH.

The second project “Stack Scale-up – Industrialization of PEM Electrolysis” is aimed at developing new stack technologies and large-series production for low-temperature electrolysis. Electrolysis using polymer electrolyte membrane cells (PEM cells) is characterized by low operation temperatures and a high power density. “At KIT, we characterize and model them electrochemically and with respect to fluid technology. Using model-based optimization, we want to develop new, more powerful stack designs,” Weber says. The project is coordinated by Schaeffler AG.

The KIT institutes involved in the projects are IAM-ET, the Laboratory of Electron Microscopy (LEM), and the Institute of Fluid Mechanics (ISTM).

The wbk Institute of Production Science also conducts research on automation solutions in electrolyzer production by robotics (FertiRob) as well as on the automated dismantling of electrolyzers in the sense of the circular economy (ReNaRe).

Background: Competition of Ideas “Hydrogen Republic of Germany”

By launching the Competition of Ideas “Hydrogen Republic of Germany,” BMBF pushed Germany’s start for a green hydrogen economy last year. Based on the ideas and proposals submitted, three lead projects on central challenges of green hydrogen economy were established.

More Information: https://www.wasserstoff-leitprojekte.de/ (in German)

 

Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 9,600 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 23,300 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.

swi, 23.08.2021
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