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Hydrogen Technology

Hydrogen technologies occupy a key position when it comes to the energy transition and achieving agreed climate targets. As an alternative to fossil fuels, green hydrogen (H2) can significantly reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and accelerate the necessary transformation of economic sectors toward climate-friendly value creation. In its function as an energy carrier, hydrogen will contribute decisively to the energy industry and to modern mobility solutions in particular. Due to its broad range of applications, hydrogen can serve as an alternative approach to battery technology for cars, trucks, aircraft, rail vehicles and ships, for example.


Highly scalable production technologies

In order to meet the future expected high demand for powerful electrolyzers and fuel cells, it is essential to develop highly scalable production technologies for automated mass production and to transfer them into large-scale application. With their comprehensive expertise in surface, material and laser technologies, Fraunhofer IWS scientists contribute to unlocking the existing potentials for industry in preparation for the upcoming hydrogen era.


Research focuses

Fraunhofer IWS develops sustainable material and manufacturing concepts for electrolyzers and fuel cells, indispensable for an economically and ecologically efficient use of hydrogen. A further key area includes solutions for safe and flexible storage as well as transport of hydrogen – thus ensuring cutting-edge energy cycles.


Electrolysis

  • Water electrolysis: Additive manufacturing of graded porous transport layers (PTL) made of titanium
    Additive Manufacturing

  • Additive manufacturing of bipolar plate prototypes for flow field analysis to determine flow velocities
    Additive Manufacturing

  • Thermal coating: Development of catalyst surfaces for proton exchange membranes (PEM), methanol synthesis and artificial photocatalysis
    Thermal Spraying

  • Analysis of electrochemical properties and interface problems by means of electrochemical methods
    Electrochemistry

  • Gas purification: Measurement of porosity characteristics and purification of process gases
    Gas and Particle Filtration


H2 infrastructure: storage, transport and distribution

  • Hydrogen pressure tank manufacturing, cryogenic applications and components for e-fuel engines
    Joining

Fuel cells

Projects#

The wide range of Fraunhofer IWS research and development services addresses small and medium sized enterprises as well as large industrial companies. Please find below a selection of projects, Fraunhofer IWS is implementing together with partners.

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miniBIP I and II – GLC coating of metallic bipolar plates#

The steel sheets, which are 50 to 100 micrometers thin, are coated with a thin carbon layer of a few nanometers.
© Fraunhofer IWS Dresden
The steel sheets, which are 50 to 100 micrometers thin, are coated with a thin carbon layer of a few nanometers.

Together with a German automotive company and the Finnish steel company Outokumpu Nirosta, Fraunhofer IWS is researching on solutions for the fast and cost-effective mass production of metallic bipolar plates (BPP) for fuel cells. Until now, the production of BPP has been very complex, driving up the cost of fuel cells - also due to the use of expensive precious metals. As part of the miniBIP I and miniBIP II projects, Fraunhofer IWS scientists developed an economical and at the same time highly efficient coating with properties at least comparable to those of gold. For example, electrical contacts on 50 to 100 micrometer thin steel sheets for BPP can be coated with a few nanometer thin conductive carbon layer (Graphite Like Carbon, GLC). These coatings, which are deposited in just a few seconds by physical vapor deposition (PVD), exhibit improved contact- and corrosion resistance. The project partners are thus significantly contributing to the production of environmentally friendly and long-life vehicle powertrains.

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Video: From batch to strip – coating of bipolar plates for fuel cells (YouTube)

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HOKOME – Roll-to-roll fabrication of fuel cell stacks#

Roll-to-roll system for continuous, time- and cost-saving coil coating processes of fuel cell stacks.
© Fraunhofer IWS Dresden
Roll-to-roll system for continuous, time- and cost-saving coil coating processes of fuel cell stacks.

HOKOME refers to the project of Fraunhofer IWS and four other Fraunhofer institutes to develop highly productive and cost-efficient fabrication processes for fuel cell stacks. Leading international vehicle manufacturers have adopted the use of hydrogen as a CO2-free energy source as an integral part of their strategy. By contrast, the production costs for bipolar plates (BPP) and membrane electrode assemblies (MEA) – the two main components of fuel cell stacks – have been high so far. The research project is addressing this issue and promotes the advanced development of roll-to-roll (R2R) coating technologies suitable for industrial use, as well as the necessary forming and joining processes. These are to replace the discontinuous batch production of individual parts currently in use. The aim is to achieve a significant cost reduction of up to 50 percent. HOKOME thus represents a project that is unique on the market and is of significant interest for sustainable mobile applications, for example in trucks, buses and other vehicles that in particular have to cover long distances.

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HZwo:FRAME-Tank – Laser-welded ring pressure tank to store hydrogen for mobile energy supply#

Laser-welded ring pressure tanks consist a laser-transparent, white upper shell and a laser-absorbing, black lower shell.
© Fraunhofer IWS Dresden
Laser-welded ring pressure tanks consist a laser-transparent, white upper shell and a laser-absorbing, black lower shell.

In the joint project HZwo:FRAME-Tank, Saxon partners from industry and research are developing a ring pressure tank to store hydrogen for mobile energy supply. The carbon fiber reinforced hydrogen tanks consist of two injection-molded half-shells: a laser-transparent, white upper shell and a laser-absorbing, black lower shell. Fraunhofer IWS has developed a suitable laser process for the H2-tight welding of the half shells. High-quality welding results can be achieved in a time- and material-saving manner on a modern multi-remote system (MuReA), which enables large-area, flexible and fast processing of different materials. The specifically developed joint design ensures that the component tolerances of the large-volume injection molded bodies are optimally bridged, thus ensuring a media-tight weld. Downstream, a toroidal carbon fiber composite pressure tank is generated from the plastic liner using a new ring winding technology. The joint project, which is funded by the ESF-EFRE technology grant from the SAB Sächsische Aufbaubank, thus contributes significantly to an environmentally friendly mobile energy supply in Saxony.

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H2 D – Additively manufactured BBP prototypes made of titanium grade 1.#

Powder bed additively manufactured BBP prototypes to be used in simulation models for flow-field optimization.
© Fraunhofer IWS Dresden
Powder bed additively manufactured BBP prototypes to be used in simulation models for flow-field optimization.

In cooperation with 23 Fraunhofer institutes Fraunhofer IWS participates in the research project H2 D. The scientists are promoting the sustainable and future-proof development of a modern hydrogen economy in Germany and thereby also addressing international dimensions. One of the four key areas of the project focuses on the cost-effective production of hydrogen by means of electrolysis. Fraunhofer IWS scientists support the project by producing bipolar plates (BPP) made of the particularly pure material titanium grade 1 in a powder bed process. Using additive manufacturing, complex and simultaneously filigree column geometries of only a few micrometers can be realized for alternative BPP designs. The suitability of the prototypes for PEM electrolyzers can subsequently be visualized by flow field analyses, which provide information about the uniform distribution of the flow velocity within the BPP. The added value of additive manufacturing is obvious: Prototypes can be produced quickly and without additional tools.