High Capacity Electrolyzers Based on Ultrathin Proton-Conducting Oxide Membranes

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OPEN 2021
New York, New York
Project Term:
07/01/2022 - 06/30/2025

Critical Need:

Electrolysis, using a renewable source of electricity to decompose water into oxygen and hydrogen (H2) gas, is an attractive approach to generating carbon-free, energy-dense H2 fuel. Water electrolysis, using renewable electricity, is expected to be a key enabler of industrial decarbonization. H2 revenue is projected to be $140 billion/year by 2030 in the U.S. and support ˜ 700,000 jobs. Large-scale deployment of “green” H2 produced by electrolysis has a higher levelized cost of hydrogen (LCOH $3-$8/kg H2) compared with H2 produced from CO2-emitting steam methane reforming ($0.7-2.1/kg H2). The price of electricity is the largest cost contributor to the LCOH from water electrolysis. There is a need for next-generation water electrolyzers that can operate at significantly higher current densities and energy efficiencies for green hydrogen to reach parity with blue H2 in the next 5-10 years.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Columbia University proposes a low-temperature water electrolyzer for hydrogen production based on ultrathin oxide membranes that can increase electrolysis efficiency by 20% compared with conventional polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyzers. The enhanced performance of Columbia’s proton-conducting oxide membrane (POM) electrolyzers is enabled by the lower ionic resistance of dense oxide-based membranes that are 2 orders of magnitude thinner than conventional catalyst-coated membranes. If successful, the capital cost of POM electrolyzer stacks will be significantly lower than today’s PEM electrolyzers and more efficient to operate. These benefits will be key enablers toward $1/kg hydrogen costs.

Potential Impact:

Producing carbon-free green hydrogen from low-temperature (< 100 °C) water electrolysis is a highly attractive approach to enabling large-scale decarbonization across a variety of end-use sectors.


If successful, this disruptive electrolyzer technology could produce clean, domestically-produced H2 fuel for the heavy transportation and chemical industry sectors that can compete with fossil-derived H2 and gasoline.


This technology would ultimately reduce U.S. reliance on fossil fuels that create harmful greenhouse gas emissions.


This technology would enable U.S. leadership in manufacturing next generation electrolyzers.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Halle Cheeseman
Project Contact:
Prof. Daniel Esposito
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