A Funding Burst Shoots to Scale Electrolyzer Tech for Wider Hydrogen Adoption
The shift towards greener tech continues with companies looking towards hydrogen technology. Capitalizing on its electrolyzer technology, Verdagy gets funding to boost hydrogen fuel cell development.
Green energy is arguably one of the most important fields of research and development today, and as such, it has garnered significant capital investments.
One of the most promising green energy technologies for the future is hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells.
An example of a hydrogen fuel cell. Image used courtesy of Cummins
However, a barrier to this technology is how to produce hydrogen in a clean way that doesn't have harmful byproducts.
One company, Verdagy, is reimagining hydrogen production with a novel approach to hydrogen electrolysis. Last week, Verdagy announced that it had raised an additional $25M in funding.
In this article, let's look at hydrogen electrolysis and explore Verdagy's novel approach to the technology.
What is Hydrogen Electrolysis?
Today more than 90% of hydrogen production is done using steam-methane reforming (SMR), a process that generates CO2 as a byproduct. Instead, a newer and cleaner technique for hydrogen production is known as hydrogen electrolysis.
A high-level overview of electrolysis. Image used courtesy of the Ocean Geothermal Energy Foundation
In its most basic form, electrolysis uses electricity to split H2O compounds (water) into their constituents: hydrogen and oxygen. By performing this electrolysis, we can create hydrogen to be used in fuel cells and oxygen, which gets released back into the atmosphere.
When combined with renewable energy sources for electricity, hydrogen electrolysis can lower the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per one kilogram in one decade while resulting in zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Now that the general basics of hydrogen electrolysis are a bit better understood, it's important to look at how to perform electrolysis.
Electrolyzers for Electrolysis
To perform electrolysis, one must use an electrolyzer.
Electrolyzers are devices that, similarly to a battery, consist of a cathode, anode, and electrolyte.
There are multiple forms of electrolyzers, with the most popular being alkaline electrolyzers and proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers.
The reactions and diagram of a PEM electrolyzer. Image used courtesy of Kumar and Himabindu
Alkaline electrolyzers operate by transporting hydroxide ions (OH-) through the electrolyte from the cathode to the anode, the hydrogen generated on the cathode side.
The advantages of these electrolyzers are that they are easy to scale to MW sizes, while their disadvantages are that they are very energy-hungry and not very efficient.
However, in PEM electrolyzers, the system relies on an external circuit to allow electrons to move to the cathode, where hydrogen atoms combine with electrons to form hydrogen gas.
PEMs tend to be the most compact, highest production, and energy-efficient type of electrolyzer; however, they struggle from an inability to scale to MW sizes.
Verdagy’s Unique Membrain-based Approach
Hoping to keep up with producing greener hydrogen, last week, Verdagy announced $25M in funding to support their new electrolyzer technology, which they claim combines the benefits of PEM and alkaline technologies.
Verdagy aims to create a new membrane-based approach to electrolysis, which uses cells with extensive active areas.
Verdagy's electrolyzers are said to achieve 10x the current density of alkaline electrolyzers and a high dynamic operating range by employing cells with extremely large areas and a proprietary single element architecture cell.
This architecture claims to allow the company to combine the benefits of both alkaline and PEM electrolyzers, achieving high efficiency and energy density while scaling up to the MW range.
With the new funding, Verdagy will work to rapidly scale its company with the goals of demonstrating its first commercial 10-cell stack at 2 MW capacity, with its first 20 MW "eDynamicTM" electrolyzer coming in the near future.