Electrolysis and Modularity – Takeaways from H2FC

May 11, 2023

Coming back from the H2FC Hannover trade show last month, our CTO Torbjörn Joelsson Ph.D, shares his top insights and views of the trends in the hydrogen industry. Torbjörn has been part of Impact Coatings for 18 years, primarily working with development of the company’s coating machines and PVD coating processes within different areas of applications.

New Movement in the Hydrogen Community

Starting off, after coming back from Hannover and the H2FC show, it’s worth stating the obvious – the industry is growing, and it has clearly reached a threshold when it comes to Fuel Cells. We have left the time of explorative talks and 3D renderings and now see actual, commercialized FC stacks presented in many booths. Within the Fuel Cell community, the conversations have shifted from “what to do” more towards “how”. In other words, focus is now on industrialization, automation and how to reach full productivity.

For Impact Coatings, this is interesting from many perspectives, not least as we have recently presented our latest and largest coating machine, the INLINECOATER™ IC2000.

Torbjörn Joelsson in front of the INLINECOATER™ IC2000

An increased interest in Water Electrolysis is also part of this latest movement. 8 out of 10 discussions in our booth had to do with Water Electrolysis and WE stacks, which is a shift that has come from one year to the next. We’ve seen the same trend around the globe in reports from our regional sales teams.

Water Electrolysis – the Natural Next Step

Of course, the reason for the rapidly increased interest in Water Electrolysis is related to several market drivers where electrolysis becomes the natural next step. With FC stacks reaching commercial levels, more hydrogen production is needed to support the FC vehicles. There is also an urgent need for more localized, green energy production and energy storage.

This means that the need for speed to market is extreme in the WE segment. To ensure that speed to market, companies are looking at proven coating solutions such as noble metals. They also need support from experienced teams to quickly move through qualification stages in preparation for volume production. From Impact Coatings’ perspective, we are perfectly positioned to support these customers – both with optimized coating processes and moving through all production stages.

Gold PVD coating on a display separator plate for water electrolysis

Part of our ability to move fast with market demands stems from our strategic journey towards becoming a go-to-partner in the hydrogen society. We have in-depth knowledge from optimizing for conductivity and corrosion resistance in electrical contacts, process insights from precise decorative coatings, and production skills from plastic metallization to handle scaling volumes. These experiences make it possible to accelerate time to market for the next generation hydrogen applications.

Modularity – the Next Big Trend in the Hydrogen Industry?

This brings us to the next trend. Modularity has become a well-used word in the hydrogen industry. How big the WE separator plates need to be is a key topic for anyone working with Water Electrolysis. What are the advantages and the disadvantages of very large formats versus a more modular buildup of the WE production units?

One drawback for larger WE plates is that predictability for very big WE stacks is a lot more complex than those of lesser size. Just as for Fuel Cells, it’s important to plan for productivity and automation, and large format plates are not ideal to handle in large scale automated production. This could be an indication that we will be moving in a direction of more moderate sized plates and modular stacks over time.

The Importance of Flexibility and Redundancy in Production

When it comes to Fuel Cells, consensus seems to be that modular production flows are of great benefit, not least as redundancy naturally becomes part of a more modular production setup. Modular production also means better control of total cost of ownership for the production line.  With a modular setup with smaller, versatile production units, maintenance, energy consumption and different types of coatings can be planned into the production flow with greater flexibility and more control of cost driving parameters.

For more information about our coating solutions for Fuel Cells and Water Electrolysis, reach out to torbjorn.joelsson@impactcoatings.com



Torbjörn Joelsson
Torbjörn Joelsson, Ph.D.