The catalyst miracle


March 16, 2021

Image titel:


The catalyst miracle

The growing importance of nickel, tin and copper

Iridium required to meet the 2030 targets set in the EU’s hydrogen strategy
© Heraeus

New times call for new ideas – and new materials. A global increase in electrification calls for new chemical products. Petroleum catalysts are a major component of the fossil fuel era and must be replaced. The current battle for rare natural resources and chemicals makes it all the more important to invest in research on inexpensive, readily available alternatives. Evidence points to nickel, tin and copper, and their undiscovered properties, as cheaper options. Good news for the electrolyzer and fuel cell industries.


Professor Peter Strasser, leader of TU Berlin’s electrochemical energy, catalyst and materials science group, has been researching nickel and iron oxide catalysts used in alkaline exchange membrane water electrolyzers, or AEMWEs. He aims to find an alternative to iridium catalysts in proton exchange membrane water electrolysis, PEMWE. Strasser explained: “PEMWE catalysts are made from iridium, an expensive, extremely rare precious metal covering the anode, where oxygen is extracted from water. To achieve the 2030 capacity targets in the German government’s hydrogen strategy, we would need the world’s entire yearly iridium supply to meet just a small percentage of Germany’s energy demand.” (see also H2-international, October 2020)

Iridium production is currently around 8 tons annually. PEM electrolyzers need about 1 to 2 grams per kilowatt output. The strategy’s 40-gigawatt electrolyzer target by 2030 would require 20 to 40 tons of iridium a year if PEM devices provided half the capacity.

In May 2020, TU Berlin researchers published an article in Nature Communications, describing new findings and the molecular dynamics of Ni-Fe catalysts. The team compared experimental data with a new theoretical catalyst model developed in partnership with Purdue University in the United States – a model that fully explains and quantifies the results of TU Berlin’s joint experiments with Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin. Strasser said these and similar catalyst research breakthroughs will make a case for water-splitting in “clean, efficient and inexpensive hydrogen production.”

Hanau-based Heraeus Group is carrying out similar research. In late September 2020, the German business introduced a new catalyst not only with 50 to 90 percent less iridium but also trebling catalytic performance, according to Heraeus. A far less expensive, far more efficient PEM electrolysis catalyst, the company added.

“Global iridium reserves simply cannot provide sufficient precious metal to supply all electrolyzers necessary for the European Commission’s hydrogen targets. We are very proud to have created a product so low in iridium.”

Christian Gebauer, hydrogen systems director at Heraeus Precious Metals

Copper in PEM fuel cells

Electrolyzers aren’t the only devices needing catalysts. Researchers have also spent a good number of years trying to find substitutes for those in PEM fuel cells. Professor Julia Kunze-Liebhäuser, a physical chemist at Innsbruck University, Austria, has discovered that copper is indeed an option despite the metal’s commonly assumed inertia. She said: “Our own calculations led us to believe that copper simply can’t be a catalyst. And yet, when we conducted our experiment, we detected high electrocatalytic activity.”

… Read more in the latest H2-International e-Journal, Feb. 2021

Kategorien: Germany

Here are interesting and current articles on the topic of hydrogen – stocks and the stock market!

Economic prospects for companies in the hydrogen sector | Future, stocks & hydrogen companies on the stock exchange and more…

Which hydrogen companies will prevail in the competitive market in the long term? Get tips and cartwheels and learn more about risks or opportunities. Our stock market specialist and expert author Sven Jösting reports critically, independently and competently.

May 16 2024

New CFO for H-Tec Systems

Electrolyzer manufacturer H-Tec Systems underwent restructuring at the turn of the year and...
May 16 2024

One-man show continues to grow

Hydrogeit Verlag celebrates its 20th anniversary The Hydrogeit Verlag publishing house has been...
May 15 2024

Hydrogen for the post-coal era

Nuclear energy also to power electrolysis in Hungary In May 2021, Hungary published its national...
May 15 2024

Hüwener to lead OGE

Thomas Hüwener will become the new management spokesman for transmission system operator OGE from...
May 15 2024

Accelerating expansion and reducing hurdles

German government adopts power plant strategy It took a long time, but now it's here – the power...
May 15 2024

Brussels approves IPCEI projects

3rd funding wave for H2 infrastructure measures The decision has finally come. In mid-February...
May 15 2024

Apex becomes H2APEX

Apex, headquartered in Rostock, Germany, is continuing to make big strides forward in the hydrogen...
May 06 2024

Lübesse Energie wants to become a pioneer

Project realization despite Exytron bankruptcy Originally at the end of 2023, an “emissions-free...
May 02 2024

Bischof-Niemz appointed to Enertrag board

Project developer Enertrag has appointed Tobias Bischof-Niemz to the board. From the beginning of...
Apr 30 2024

“Cool, what you’re doing in Germany”

“Today is a good day for industry location Germany, climate protection and sustainable jobs in our...
Apr 30 2024

DWV shortens its name

As of January 2024, the DWV has a slightly shorter name. Instead of being called the German...
Apr 30 2024

Changes at CEP

New board, new members and a new structure – that’s the news in the latest press release from the...
Apr 18 2024

Plug Power – Price jumps with many questions

The Plug share price fell quickly to under 3 USD (2.50 USD at low) and then rose again to over...
Apr 17 2024

Siemens Energy – Light at the end of the tunnel

Siemens Energy is on the right track, as the latest figures show. Although the wind subsidiary...
Apr 17 2024

Nikola Motors – Outlook speaks for the company

The press conference in February 2024 on the fourth quarter results and the entire year 2023 and,...
Apr 17 2024

Hyzon Motors – Strong patent position

Hyzon Motors will start production of 200‑kW modules for commercial vehicles in the USA in the...
Apr 17 2024

FuelCell Energy – Carbon capture as a growth story?

FuelCell Energy has with SOFC fuel cell power plants built its own capacities for clean energy...
Apr 16 2024

Hydrogen economy gaining speed

Trade fair guide for Hannover Messe 2024 AI and hydrogen are the focus of this year's Hannover...
Apr 16 2024

Politicians with an open ear for hydrogen

Optimism at the H2 Forum in Berlin A good 450 participants gathered at the specialist conference...
Apr 16 2024

Gas producers are the winners of the H2 ramp-up

The major international gas companies such as Linde, Air Liquide and Air Products have always been...


Leave a Reply