A Roadmap to Low-Cost Hydrogen with Hydroxide Exchange Membrane Electrolyzers

Bryan Pivovar, Reza Abbasi, Brian Setzler, Saisai Lin, Junhua Wang, Yun Zhao, Hui Xu, Boyuan Tian, Xi Chen, Gang Wu, Yushan Yan

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203 Scopus Citations


Hydrogen is an ideal alternative energy carrier to generate power for all of society's energy demands including grid, industrial, and transportation sectors. Among the hydrogen production methods, water electrolysis is a promising method because of its zero greenhouse gas emission and its compatibility with all types of electricity sources. Alkaline electrolyzers (AELs) and proton exchange membrane electrolyzers (PEMELs) are currently used to produce hydrogen. AELs are commercially mature and are used in a variety of industrial applications, while PEMELs are still being developed and find limited application. In comparison with AELs, PEMELs have more compact structure and can achieve higher current densities. Recently, however, an alternative technology to PEMELs, hydroxide exchange membrane electrolyzers (HEMELs), has gained considerable attention due to the possibility to use platinum group metal (PGM)-free electrocatalysts and cheaper membranes, ionomers, and construction materials and its potential to achieve performance parity with PEMELs. Here, the state-of-the-art AELs and PEMELs along with the current status of HEMELs are discussed in terms of their positive and negative aspects. Additionally discussed are electrocatalyst, membrane, and ionomer development needs for HEMELs and benchmark electrocatalysts in terms of the cost–performance tradeoff.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1805876
Number of pages14
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number31
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-73764


  • electrocatalysis
  • hydrogen production
  • membrane electrolyzers
  • proton exchange membrane electrolyzers
  • technoeconomic analysis


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