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MSc assignment: Assessing alternative cathode materials for large scale electrochemical water splitting in acidic media

MSc assignment: Assessing alternative cathode materials for large scale electrochemical water splitting in acidic media

Daily supervisor: Dr. Bastian Mei/Liniker de Sousa

Available from: 01/05/2019 

There is a demand for energy storage due to seasonal fluctuations in the production of renewable electricity by among others solar cells and wind parks. In various energy scenarios molecular hydrogen (H2) is suggested to be a suitable energy carrier allowing for seasonal storage of surplus renewable energy.

Two technologies are frequently discussed for the electrochemical production of hydrogen, proton-exchange (PEM) and alkaline exchange membrane (AEM) electrolysis. The flexibility of PEM electrolysis might favor its large-scale implementation but the need of abundant materials such as Platinum for cathodic hydrogen and Iridium oxide anodic oxygen production is certainly a drawback. On lab scale alternative materials have been tested that appear to be promising alternatives. Still long-term stability at high current densities is barely addressed.  

Goal

In this assignment the scalability of electrochemical hydrogen production using commercially available alternatives for Pt such as carbides will be addressed. Along with a detailed kinetic analysis, membrane development and operation at industrial-relevant current densities will allow to assess the exploitability of the non-noble metal materials. The project will be performed in close collaboration with Treibacher Industrie AG, Austria.

Figure: Example of a lab-scale electrolysis unit (Ref: Science 360, 783–787 (2018)) and a schematic illustration of a membrane-electrode assembly (MEA – REF: Journal of The Electrochemical Society, 162, F854-F867 (2015)).