Performance and Durability of Pure-Water-Fed Anion Exchange Membrane Electrolyzers Using Baseline Materials and Operation

August 10, 2021


Water electrolysis powered by renewable electricity produces green hydrogen and oxygen gas, which can be used for energy, fertilizer, and industrial applications and thus displace fossil fuels. Pure-water anion-exchange-membrane (AEM) electrolyzers in principle offer the advantages of commercialized proton-exchange-membrane systems (high current density, low cross over, output gas compression, etc.) while enabling the use of less-expensive steel components and nonprecious metal catalysts. AEM electrolyzer research and development, however, has been limited by the lack of broadly accessible materials that provide consistent cell performance, making it difficult to compare results across studies. Further, even when the same materials are used, different pretreatments and electrochemical analysis techniques can produce different results. Here, we report an AEM electrolyzer comprising commercially available catalysts, membrane, ionomer, and gas-diffusion layers operating near 1.9 V at 1 A cm–2 in pure water. After the initial break in, the performance degraded by 0.67 mV h–1 at 0.5 A cm–2 at 55 °C. We detail the key preparation, assembly, and operation techniques employed and show further performance improvements using advanced materials as a proof-of-concept for future AEM-electrolyzer development. The data thus provide an easily reproducible and comparatively high-performance baseline that can be used by other laboratories to calibrate the performance of improved cell components, nonprecious metal oxygen evolution, and hydrogen evolution catalysts and learn how to mitigate degradation pathways.