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Evaluating the Case for Reduced Precious Metal Catalysts in Proton Exchange Membrane Electrolyzers

Hubert, McKenzie A, King, Laurie A and Jaramillo, Thomas F (2021) Evaluating the Case for Reduced Precious Metal Catalysts in Proton Exchange Membrane Electrolyzers. ACS Energy Letters. pp. 17-23. ISSN 2380-8195

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Abstract

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) water electrolyzers are a key technology in decarbonizing hydrogen production. Though the market for PEM electrolyzer systems is growing, there are concerns that the cost and availability of precious metal catalysts utilized in today’s commercial systems can limit deployment. Herein, we show that while the availability of Ir should not impede deployment in the near term, the inelasticity of the Ir commodity price is cause for immediate concern. We emphasize that diversifying catalyst materials, even with other precious metals, can reduce system costs and mitigate supply chain risk. Furthermore, we analyze the trade-offs between catalyst capital cost and catalyst activity for a range of operating conditions (i.e., capacity factor, electricity price). The framework presented herein is a first step toward establishing performance targets (i.e., activity, stability, material cost) for reduced precious metal and non-precious metal catalysts as a function of PEM electrolyzer operating conditions.

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