Hydrogen industry

Hydrogen from production, transport and storage to use

Hydrogen technology will play a key role in achieving climate protection targets. Hydrogen is an environmentally friendly, safe and powerful energy carrier that can be produced and used efficiently and sustainably. Despite many years of experience with hydrogen, the development of a hydrogen economy will require a major effort on the part of German and European industry. To this end, issues relating to production, transport, storage and use must be clarified for a wide range of applications, and the corresponding infrastructure must be built.

Fraunhofer IFAM has established itself nationally and internationally as a long-standing research and development partner of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. The institute has been active in the hydrogen industry for more than 20 years. Today, our experts cover the areas of hydrogen production, hydrogen transport and storage, and the use of hydrogen. The main focus is not only on the material and manufacturing costs of components, but also on their efficiency and operational stability in order to arrive at sustainable and economical solutions. 


Hydrogen production   

A sustainable hydrogen economy must be based on renewable primary energy (see Renewable energy). From an economic point of view, production must be cost-effective and climate-neutral - electrolysis will play a central role in this. Fraunhofer IFAM is extensively involved in alkaline and PEM electrolysis and is continuing to develop innovative processes, such as seawater electrolysis.  

In the field of electrolysers, we can draw on extensive laboratory analysis and a laboratory electrolyzer. In the field of alkaline and PEM electrolysis, this equipment is used to work on innovative materials and processes to improve the efficiency and reduce the costs of electrolysers. In the field of seawater electrolysis, basic research is being carried out and new components (e.g. membranes) and materials are being developed that are suitable for use under these often highly corrosive conditions.   


Transport and storage of hydrogen 

The transport and storage options for hydrogen are closely linked, diverse and depend on the use. Besides economic aspects, considerations of gravimetric or volumetric energy density are often at the center of technology selection.   

For cost-effective transport and storage of hydrogen, mainly non-pressurized or low-pressure processes are discussed, such as feeding into the natural gas grid (incl. storage) or liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC). Pressurized storage systems (typical pressure between 300 and 700 bar) are being developed for automotive applications and cryogenic systems (down to -253°C) for aerospace applications. For this purpose, Fraunhofer IFAM uses its materials expertise and laboratory equipment to determine, for example, hydrogen permeation (e.g. composite materials) and material embrittlement (e.g. high-strength steels), to develop barrier layers, and to describe hydrogen-induced material aging. In addition, Fraunhofer IFAM develops test methods, components, and bonded structures to realistically represent the structural stresses, and uses analytical and numerical models for verification.  

Metal hydrides offer a better volumetric storage density compared to many other hydrogen storage systems. Accordingly, they are very interesting solution for applications with limited storage volume and non-critical storage weight. To improve the economy and reaction kinetics, our scientists use advanced metal hydride composites consisting of the hydride-forming metal alloy and secondary auxiliary materials such as graphite and/or polymers.   

Fraunhofer IFAM has developed a pasty hydrogen storage system (POWERPASTE®) based on the light metal hydride MgH2. This enables the use of hydrogen when no suitable hydrogen logistics or refueling infrastructure is available or usable. POWERPASTE can be filled into cartridges and release hydrogen in a hydrolysis reactor by dosing the paste and adding water.   


Use of hydrogen 

For the efficient use of hydrogen, the cost-effective production of consumers, i.e. fuel cells in particular, is essential. From the automotive industry to aviation and mobile hydrogen use, low-cost, high-performance fuel cells will be a key to widespread application. Fraunhofer IFAM is focusing on fast and reliable bonding processes in order to achieve so-called 10Hz processes in fuel cell manufacturing and to avoid the distortion that occurs during welding.