Last updateThu, 23 Jun 2022 3pm

Current distributor made of paper - project wins 25th Otto von Guericke Prize 2021

The research project "Titan-PapSt" has been awarded the Otto von Guericke Prize 2021 for the IGF project of the year 2021 with the development of a novel membrane electrode unit for fuel cell and electrolysis technology.

The three institutes involved, Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research in Dresden (IFAM), Zentrum für BrennstoffzellenTechnik GmbH in Duisburg (ZBT) and the Papiertechnische Stiftung (PTS), have also contributed to bringing together three specialist areas and developing an innovative paper-based material with their outstanding interdisciplinary approach.

The AiF (German Federation of Industrial Research Associations "Otto von Guericke" e.V.) awarded this prize for the 25th time on 01.12.2021, which honours scientists for special innovative achievements in the field of precompetitive industrial joint research (IGF). This renowned prize has been awarded since 1997 and comes with prize money of €10,000.

In total, the knowledge location Dresden was represented by three institutes in two nominated projects, the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research (IFAM), the Papiertechnische Stiftung (PTS) from Heidenau near Dresden and the Technische Universität Dresden in the IGF project "MyringoSeal", all of which shape the location in the association "Dresden concept".

Current distributors in electrolysis cells made of special paper

The production of "green hydrogen" on a large scale requires cost-effective electrolysis systems, in which the power distributor currently accounts for the largest share of costs. For this reason, it was necessary to look for alternative materials and technological concepts.

In collaboration with Dr Ralf Hauser (IFAM, Dresden) Sebastian Stypka (formerly ZBT, Duisburg) and Wladimir Philippi (both ZBT, Duisburg), PTS project leaders Franziska Bauer and Dr Stefan Knohl (formerly PTS) developed an innovative paper-based material. "This makes it possible to produce functional power distributors on highly productive paper machines in the future," says Bauer, adding "compared to the previous titanium components, the new 'paper' saves a fifth of the costs." The idea stems from a knowledge exchange in 2015 between the institutes, as a result of which the unique potential of the paper production manufacturing technology was also envisaged for other applications in the Power2X field.

In the project, the focus was on the so-called PEM electrolysis cells, in which the power distributor accounts for the dominant share of costs. In order to reduce the investment costs of PEM electrolysis cells, the idea of developing metallic sinterable papers based on titanium for use as power distributors in PEM electrolysis was successfully pursued. The disadvantages of conventional current distributors are the very high manufacturing costs (fabrics), the high anisotropy and insufficient surface area (nonwovens), a high material thickness combined with high manufacturing costs (sintered bodies) and generally partly too large tolerances.

With the help of highly filled special papers it should be possible to solve the problems mentioned above. The filler content in a paper is drastically increased so that the paper's property profile is now characterised by the functionality represented by the filler instead of the fibre.

The fine metal powders embedded in the cellulose matrix are thermally pre-treated by pyrolysis or oxidation. After subsequent sintering, thin porous, purely metallic moulded bodies are produced.

Within the scope of this research project, various paper-derived titanium current distributors could be manufactured. The titanium current distributors were then investigated with regard to their performance during electrolysis. As a result of the research project, it could be shown that an optimal microstructure in terms of porosity and pore size is crucial for the functioning of the electrolyser. Finally, flow distributors were developed that are comparable to a reference.


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