reduce electrolyzer cost

Reducing the cost of electrolyzers

Elec­trolyz­ers and fuel cells are the bee’s knees right now. Due to the recent geopo­lit­i­cal occur­rences, com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ments around the world are look­ing for ener­gy alter­na­tives to be able to replace the now scarce and expen­sive ener­gy sources.

While researchers are already work­ing to pro­duce renew­able and sus­tain­able alter­na­tives, cost fac­tors are get­ting in their way. That’s why CAPLINQ, researched and devel­oped new-age car­bon papers that can max­i­mize per­for­mance while reduc­ing pro­duc­tion costs, as much as possible.

If we want to delve deep into the fac­tors that we can min max to effec­tive­ly min­i­mize the elec­trolyz­er pro­duc­tion cost it is very impor­tant to under­stand how car­bon papers are made.

Reducing the cost of Carbon papers

Now that we under­stand how car­bon papers are made, we can also have a bet­ter insight into how we can min­i­mize their pro­duc­tion cost. Fur­naces run­ning at 2000°C for hours are as expen­sive and ener­gy-inten­sive as it sounds. So opti­miz­ing car­bon paper pro­duc­tion sched­ules can pro­cure both finan­cial and envi­ron­men­tal benefits.

There are three fac­tors that we can opti­mize in order to reduce the cost of car­bon papers:

1. Optimize furnace runs

This is by far the most impor­tant part of the equa­tion since fur­nace runs are expen­sive! The fur­naces used for Car­bon papers are the same equip­ment used for Sin­tered Tita­ni­um. Graphi­ti­za­tion hap­pens at tem­per­a­tures as high as 2000°C. CAPLINQ oper­ates in two dif­fer­ent tem­per­a­tures. 1600°C for “low” tem­per­a­ture treat­ment and 2000°C for car­bon sheets with high tem­per­a­ture graphi­ti­za­tion. You can imag­ine that with today’s gas prices, fur­nace runs are a huge part of the total cost, which amounts to some­thing more than 50% of the oper­at­ing expenses.

Low vol­umes are expen­sive. Whether the fur­nace runs 1 part or 10,000 parts, the fur­nace cost is the same. Hence, there is a lin­ear rela­tion­ship between cost and the num­ber of units pro­duced. Ide­al­ly, every batch should be a full fur­nace in order to min­i­mize the ener­gy con­sump­tion and the ener­gy cost per sheet pro­duced. This is impor­tant to keep in mind when you just need a cou­ple of sheets.

2. Reduce machining costs

Coop­er­at­ing with end cus­tomers to opti­mize the process for their end dimen­sions and tol­er­ances is of the utmost impor­tance. If every­one could use raw, max sheet sizes, direct­ly from the fur­nace, the cost could be reduced by almost 25%. But pre­cise thick­ness­es and very tight dimen­sion­al tol­er­ances (down to 0.01mm) cre­ate a lot of waste and great­ly increase the costs.

Design adjust­ments and more relaxed tol­er­ances can save a lot of waste, increase the pro­duc­tion yield and large­ly con­tribute to mate­r­i­al cost reduction.

3. Materials and Size

As with the reduc­tion of machin­ing costs, avoid­ing cut­ting odd shapes is cru­cial. Cir­cles can­not be made direct­ly from the fur­nace. Rec­tan­gle sheets are pro­duced and then cir­cles or oth­er odd shapes need to be cut with all the mate­r­i­al and ener­gy waste per m2 that come with it. 

On the same note the clos­er we get to the max­i­mum fur­nace dimen­sions (in our case it is a bit larg­er than 40 x 40cm) the more effi­cient we can be with the price per m2. If you require very odd dimen­sions a full sheet still has to be pro­duced and cut into size. If you can opti­mize your stack for some­thing close to the fur­nace yield (20 x 20cm and 40 x 40cm fur­naces) we can give you the best pos­si­ble price and reduce the envi­ron­men­tal impact of mate­r­i­al waste and wast­ed energy.

Final­ly, pan­el opti­miza­tion is key. As an exam­ple, a cus­tomer recent­ly want­ed 25 x 25cm sheets and was sur­prised by the price point. What we had to explain is that this 25 x 25cm sheet is orig­i­nal­ly a 40 x 40 that has to be machined and wast­ed in order to cre­ate the request­ed odd dimen­sion. All this waste bloats the price where we would nor­mal­ly get more than 25% sav­ings from the Bill of Materials.

If we take all of the above into account we can achieve huge cost sav­ings in car­bon papers and in exten­sion in elec­trolyz­er assemblies.

But it is not just the Bill of mate­ri­als. Renew­able ener­gy sources are pop­u­lar due to envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns. If we do not take the ener­gy, emis­sions, and waste required to make car­bon papers into account then we might end up with the same car­bon foot­print as with tra­di­tion­al ener­gy sources.

How can we further reduce the electrolyzer cost?

By reduc­ing the cost of Car­bon papers we are already in a good direc­tion to reduce the total cost of our elec­trolyz­er. But to max­i­mize the per­for­mance there are four addi­tion­al focus areas:

1. Increase active area. A larg­er active area decreas­es the cost per kg of H2 pro­duced. Cus­tom LINQCELL™ plates can be sup­plied up to 40 x 40cm. Rol­lable, non woven sheets for thin car­bon papers are also avail­able per m2.

2. High­er pres­sure PEMs. These elim­i­nate a com­pres­sion step, allow­ing cus­tomers to buy less expen­sive com­pres­sors. LINQCELL™ Car­bon papers are high­ly com­press­ible with vary­ing com­pres­sion % depend­ing on their ini­tial thick­ness and grade.

3. Reduce mate­r­i­al cost. Sin­tered Tita­ni­um is expen­sive and the cost is lin­ear with size. LINQCELL car­bon paper is 2–3 times less expen­sive and with opti­mized order­ing, as dis­cussed in the pre­vi­ous sec­tion it can be even less than that. 

4. Increase use­ful life. Longer life cycles increase the val­ue of the PEM. Year­ly ser­vice checks reveal that LINQCELL™ sheets are still intact while mem­branes need to be replaced.

CAPLINQ man­u­fac­tures cost-effec­tive LINQCELL Car­bon papers with high com­press­ibil­i­ty and good elec­tri­cal prop­er­ties that can be used for fuel cells and elec­trolyz­ers. The thick­ness­es range from 180um up to 3mm thick car­bon papers and we can do cus­tom designs and dimen­sions (with all the cost fac­tors men­tioned in this article)

You can find our cur­rent port­fo­lio in our graphi­tized car­bon papers cat­e­go­ry. Mem­brane elec­trode assem­bly man­u­fac­tur­ers will also be inter­est­ed in ion exchange mem­branes. Anion exchange mem­branes can oper­ate with­out the use of pre­cious met­als such as plat­inum and irid­i­um, mak­ing them way more cost-effec­tive and envi­ron­men­tal­ly friendly.

Con­tact us with your design lim­i­ta­tions and uni­corn prop­er­ties to see how we can help you move for­wards toward a more effi­cient and sus­tain­able future.

About George Kountardas

George is a Jack of all trades with an unappeasable inquiring mind. Obsessed with new products and technologies, he is always pushing forward for better, faster and more efficient applications. Always learning something new.

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