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20.07.2021 Press Release
From Manufactory To Gigafactory
The global production capacity for green hydrogen could increase to more than 250 gigawatts by 2030, according to a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The technologies needed to split water by using green power – experts are calling this “electrolysis” – are already well-advanced. Experts believe that membrane electrolysis, which in principle works like a fuel cell in reverse, is particularly suitable for intermittent production with a highly fluctuating power supply. However, similar to the established process of alkaline electrolysis, systems for polymer membrane electrolysis so far have only been built in small quantities. Series production has only become attractive with the increased climate protection plans in China, Europe and the United States. By now, the first manufacturers are planning “gigafactories” where electrolyzers with a high degree of automation can be built at significantly lower costs.
Component Size Is a Challenge
This kind of production concept, however, requires components that are designed for mostly automated assemblies from the start. This applies especially to seals which provide reliable media separation during the electrolysis. The component size itself is one of the challenges: In some cases, seals with a diameter of up to one meter are used. Not only does this make the seals more difficult to handle, it also places high demands on the installation quality to ensure that the surface pressure is uniform and the tightness is guaranteed for the entire service life.
One of the solutions pursued by Freudenberg Sealing Technologies is based on molding the sealing material directly onto the functional part. The company is already using a similar process to produce gas diffusion layers in fuel cells. Alternatively, the seal can be applied to or inserted into specialized carriers, which in turn is easy to transport and install. “In principle, we face similar challenges as when we seal large battery housings in electric vehicles,” explains Technical Director Gaskets, Robert Lidster. “That’s why we can transfer our expertise to the electrolyzer market.” Through its work on fuel cell components, Freudenberg has also gained more than 20 years of experience in handling hydrogen. At its Munich development center in Germany, the company is even developing complete fuel cell systems now for use in commercial vehicles and ships.
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