// Paving the way ahead for hydrogen technology of the future: First testing and innovation centre for electrolysis

Marc-Simon Löffler, Head of Renewable Fuels and Processes (REG) at the ZSW, in front of an electrolysis stack. Source: picture alliance / dpa

The hydrogen economy is gathering pace, with large international markets opening up. One key element in this development is electrolysis for the production of green hydrogen. There is a need to generate capacity for trials and tests and to develop consultancy services for manufacturers and users in the industry in order to ramp up the electrolyser market. “ElyLab” will be the first cross-technology testing and innovation centre for water electrolysis to be built in Germany. The Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg - ZSW) and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt - DLR) are pooling their expertise in the field of electrolysis in initiating this move.

“Our aims in developing the ElyLab facility are to pave the way ahead for the hydrogen technology of the future and to accelerate the routes to market for the technology,” explained Dr. Marc-Simon Löffler who heads up the ZSW department of Renewable Fuels and Processes (REG). “There has been a lack of generally accepted accelerated ageing processes in electrolysis technology until now and a dearth of experience in the neutral evaluation of electrolysers. ElyLab will stimulate activity in all hydrogen generation technologies and will provide the industry with neutral evaluations ranging from material analysis right through to system testing on a megawatt scale,” said Prof. Dr. K. Andreas Friedrich, Head of Department of Electrochemical Energy Technology at the DLR, outlining the work of the facility and its support role.

The DLR and the ZSW have access to a wealth of resources. The two partners have decades of experience in all the relevant areas of electrolysis as well as extensive analysis and testing capabilities, ranging from cell components, such as electrodes, membranes or cell frames, and electrolysis stack technologies right through to fully integrated systems, and from material analysis all the way to testing in realistic conditions on a megawatt scale. The ZSW focuses primarily on alkaline electrolysis technology in the ElyLab project while the DLR mainly covers PEM (proton exchange membrane) /AEM (anion exchange membrane) and SOEL (solid oxide electrolysis). The partners want to home in on the development of standardised test procedures in order to be able to offer manufacturers and users a quality benchmark.

The ZSW is currently expanding its test infrastructure at its base in Stuttgart. The existing test bays on the kilowatt and megawatt scale will be supplemented by further test rigs and testing facilities for cells measuring several square metres in area. The DLR will expand the testing capacities for PEM, AEM and SOEL for operation on an industrial scale with the added benefit of high-specification analysis equipment. By the middle of 2022, a feasibility study funded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs will examine the technical and economic viability of an electrolysis test centre in the Stuttgart area where the two organisations plan to join forces to open up effective channels for local and regional hydrogen distribution and utilisation.

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