Ellinor Ehrnberg, President Smoltek Innovationi

Revolutionizing electrolyzer technology to meet future needs for cost-effective hydrogen

Hydro­gen will play a key role in a num­ber of indus­tries, not least in pro­vid­ing the indus­tries with so-called “green elec­tric­i­ty”, as part of Europe’s ener­gy tran­si­tion to cli­mate neu­tral­i­ty. But some­one must also pro­duce the huge amounts of hydro­gen that will be required to meet the grow­ing needs. At the moment Smoltek Inno­va­tion AB is test­ing its car­bon nanofiber based tech­nol­o­gy, which may dras­ti­cal­ly increase pro­duc­tiv­i­ty in hydro­gen pro­duc­tion at a low­er cost than cur­rent technology.

“A grow­ing new area that we are look­ing at right now is tech­nol­o­gy for ener­gy con­ver­sion, specif­i­cal­ly elec­trolyz­ers for hydro­gen-based ener­gy sys­tems, where we have already filed sev­er­al patent appli­ca­tions,” says Elli­nor Ehrn­berg, head of Smoltek Innovation.

Dis­trib­uted hydro­gen pro­duc­tion will play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the future, includ­ing as an infra­struc­ture com­po­nent for heavy vehi­cles that in the future will be pow­ered by fuel cells, as well as in fos­sil-free steel pro­duc­tion, where sev­er­al Swedish projects are cur­rent­ly under­way. More and more play­ers are review­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of stor­ing ener­gy when oth­er renew­able ener­gy sources such as solar, wind and water do not deliver.

The Swedish Ener­gy Agency has, on behalf of the gov­ern­ment, devel­oped a nation­al hydro­gen strat­e­gy to facil­i­tate the tran­si­tion to fossil-free.

“There are many that are talk­ing about stor­ing and dis­trib­ut­ing hydro­gen, but few are inter­est­ed in mod­ern­iz­ing the pro­duc­tion technology,”

Elli­nor Ehrn­berg continues.

Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est is Pro­ton Exchange Mem­brane (PEM) elec­trol­y­sis where the cells con­tain a water-absorb­ing elec­trolyte of a poly­mer mem­brane. Expen­sive met­als such as plat­inum or irid­i­um are used as cat­a­lyst mate­ri­als, but these par­ti­cles are placed ran­dom­ly and part­ly hid­den in cur­rent PEM cells. Smoltek’s tech­nol­o­gy enables these expen­sive par­ti­cles to be orga­nized to come into full con­tact with the mem­brane and thus reach­es full hydro­gen pro­duc­tion with a less­er amount of expen­sive metals.

“Our tech­nol­o­gy should be able to pro­duce two to three times more hydro­gen per cell com­pared to exist­ing tech­nol­o­gy. This is because two to three times more cat­a­lyst par­ti­cles can be in con­tact with the mem­brane at the same time.”

“It is all based on the fact that our tech­nol­o­gy can grow the nanos­truc­tures in a way that gives a ver­ti­cal 3D effect, which opti­mizes the func­tion­al sur­face lay­er. This makes our tech­nol­o­gy both eco­nom­i­callay and envi­ron­men­tal­ly sustainable.”

Elli­nor Ehrn­berg explains.

In the auto­mo­tive indus­try, it is said that per­haps 20 per­cent of the elec­tric cars of the future will not be pow­ered by bat­ter­ies, but fuel cells. Espe­cial­ly in heavy trans­ports, as the hydro­gen reduces weight per stored ener­gy, which makes it more suit­able than a bat­tery when you need a longer range. Elli­nor Ehrn­berg exem­pli­fies with the Vol­vo Group, which recent­ly formed a joint ven­ture with Daim­ler Truck AG for large-scale pro­duc­tion of fuel cells.

“This is very much some­thing that is on the rise. The same applies, of course, to the marine and aero­space indus­tries, where they also want to invest in sus­tain­able, ener­gy- dense alter­na­tives, which are suit­able for long dis­tances and which can be stored direct­ly in vehi­cles with­out sig­nif­i­cant­ly increas­ing weight,”

Elli­nor Ehrn­berg concludes.

Smoltek is still in an ear­ly research phase, Proof of con­cept, to demon­strate the fea­si­bil­i­ty of the tech­nol­o­gy, but since the con­cept is so promis­ing and the poten­tial mar­ket is so large, the com­pa­ny wants to act quick­ly and is now look­ing for part­ners with whom they want to real­ize the new elec­trolyz­er concept.

Image: Elli­nor Ehrn­berg, Pres­i­dent at Smoltek Innovation

This con­tent is trans­lat­ed from an edi­to­r­i­al ad in Ny Teknik, April 15 2021.

Related insights from Smoltek

Electrolysis & fuel cells

Carbon nanofibers in hydrogen electrolysis & fuel cells Hydro­gen has emerged as a key to store renew­able ener­gy and mak­ing heavy indus­try car­bon-free. Two appli­ca­tion areas of imme­di­ate vital impor­tance. The core tech­nolo­gies that make this pos­si­ble are hydro­gen elec­trol­y­sis and fuel cells. Elec­trol­y­sis con­verts elec­tric­i­ty into hydro­gen, while fuel cells con­vert the hydro­gen back to elec­tric­i­ty....
Hand held circular disc with Smoltek logo

Smoltek—from carbon nanofibers to mind-controlled robotic prostheses

Smoltek holds unique world patents for technologies that make material engineering on an atomic level possible. Smoltek has solutions that allow continued miniaturization and increased performance of semiconductors, contribute to carbon-free steel production and renewable energy storage, and enable mind control of robotic prostheses. This is a story of how Smoltek came to be.

Breaking barriers: The future

This is the third and last article in a series of three in which Smoltek founder and strategic advisor Shafiq Kabir share his personal thoughts on nanotechnology opportunities. In the previous two articles, he has addressed both the hype and the reality of carbon nanotechnology. In this last article, he looks into the future. He discusses how carbon nanotechnology will unleash the power of the internet of everything.
Ellinor Ehrnberg, President of Smoltek Innovation

Collaboration agreement signed for Smoltek’s green hydrogen solutions

The group company Smoltek Innovation has signed a collaboration agreement with a large international manufacturer of material for electrolyzers. The collaboration agreement includes the development of demonstrators based on Smoltek's highly efficient nanofiber-based cell material for PEM electrolyzers.

Advances in our technology for new cell material for electrolyzers

Smoltek has achieved proof-of-concept for high-performing, nanofiber-based cell material for PEM-electrolyzers. In our laboratory we have demonstrated that the cell material fulfills several important performance and durability requirements, including very low contact resistance, which potential industrial partners have stated that they want to test before a collaboration regarding the continued development can be initiated.

Interview with Håkan Persson, incoming CEO of Smoltek

Håkan Persson, with many years of experience from leading and developing listed technology companies, will take over as CEO of Smoltek. He will join the company no later than October 15, maybe sooner. In anticipation of his accession, we have had a short Q&A with him.

Introducing Smoltek Electrolyzer Technology

Hydrogen has proven to be a key to storing renewable energy and making heavy industry carbon-free. But there is a catch. The hydrogen is produced by electrolysis. Conventional alkaline electrolysis has poor efficiency. And the much more high-performing polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysis requires rare earth metals. This is where Smoltek's technology comes in. Our solution, presented in this whitepaper, makes the electrodes in PEM electrolysis up to three times more efficient while reducing the amount of precious metal needed.
Farzan Ghavanini, CTO

Smoltek recruits Farzan Ghavanini as new CTO

Smoltek has recruited Farzan Ghavanini as new Chief Technology Officer (CTO), who will assume the position on April 1 2022. He will then succeed Peter Enoksson, who has been acting CTO for Smoltek since 20 September 2021.
Ellinor Ehrnberg, President Smoltek Innovationi

Update on the operational activities in Smoltek Innovation

Smoltek Innovation's efforts to develop a unique and high-performance nanofiber-based cell material for electrolyzers used in fossil-free hydrogen production continues to develop according to plan. Dialogues are now ongoing with the aim of signing a collaboration agreement with a major manufacturer for the continued development of the concept.