Green hydrogen is a central building block of the energy transition at both national and European level. Regeneratively generated electric power can be stored in the form of hydrogen and, if required, converted back into electric power using a fuel cell. In order to exploit the potential of hydrogen to reduce pollutants in industry, transportation or mobility, it is necessary to produce hydrogen from renewable sources. To meet the demand for hydrogen in Germany, electrolyzers for up to five gigawatts of total power are to be built by 2030. Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers are well suited for hydrogen production from renewable energy sources due to their high dynamics. To ensure that the targeted quantities can be provided by water electrolysis, it is necessary to further develop the production technologies for manufacturing systems and components for electrolyzers. Only then can electrolyzers be manufactured cost-effectively in required quantities, thus creating the basis for green hydrogen in the energy transition. The upscaling potential and economic viability will be demonstrated using the example of PEM electrolyzers.
In order to further develop production technologies for PEM electrolyzers, the Fraunhofer IPT, together with other Fraunhofer institutes, is designing a decentralized reference factory as a flexible, multidirectional, technology-open solution for large-scale production in the "FRHY" project. In the project, the partners are developing new production and testing modules that enable automated serial production of water electrolyzers for plants up to the gigawatt range. In parallel, digital images of the plants are being created and linked in a central virtual architecture. This creates synergy effects that have not yet been exploited, especially in the overarching tasks required for industrialization, such as automation, quality assurance and planning: Individual processes can thus be compared in terms of manufacturing qualities, scalability and costs. This approach forms a solid basis for high-rate, reproducible production, which can be used to improve the quality and service life of electrolyzers and can be adapted dynamically and flexibly to changing conditions. In addition, the investment risk for companies is reduced and new processes can be integrated more quickly into the industrial environment.
In the "FRHY" project, the Fraunhofer IPT is focusing on the development of configurable production and testing modules: as a technological basis for the transformation into a value chain with high-rate ability, the Aachen scientists are researching modular processes, machines, systems and testing equipment. The Fraunhofer IPT specializes in new production technologies for the membrane electrode assembly (MEA), the porous transport layer (PTL) and the bipolar plates (BPP). A digital image is created of the real component production facilities. For this purpose, all relevant production parameters are assigned to the produced components in the form of a digital shadow in a unique data structure.
In addition to technological optimization, the project also aims to achieve economic improvements: for example, the partners in the project are developing a basis for eco-balancing and systematically analyzing the impact of the products on the environment based on the production parameters throughout the entire production cycle. Using real production modules, the digital images of the machine modules are validated in an iterative process. The goal is to develop configurable and calculable production and test modules. The new production modules then support the validation of various concepts for industrial partners in terms of technology transfer.