Voltage losses in zero-gap alkaline water electrolysis

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Abstract

Reducing the gap between the electrodes and diaphragm to zero is an often adopted strategy to reduce the ohmic drop in alkaline water electrolyzers for hydrogen production. We provide a thorough account of the current–voltage relationship in such a zero-gap configuration over a wide range of electrolyte concentrations and current densities. Included are voltage components that are not often experimentally quantified like those due to bubbles, hydroxide depletion, and dissolved hydrogen and oxygen. As is commonly found for zero-gap configurations, the ohmic resistance was substantially larger than that of the separator. We find that this is because the relatively flat electrode area facing the diaphragm was not active, likely due to separator pore blockage by gas, the electrode itself, and or solid deposits. Over an e-folding time-scale of ten seconds, an additional ohmic drop was found to arise, likely due to gas bubbles in the electrode holes. For electrolyte concentrations below 0.5 M, an overpotential was observed, associated with local depletion of hydroxide at the anode. Finally, a high supersaturation of hydrogen and oxygen was found to significantly increase the equilibrium potential at elevated current densities. Most of these voltage losses are shown to be easily avoidable by introducing a small 0.2 mm gap, greatly improving the performance compared to zero-gap.

Original languageEnglish
Article number229864
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Volume497
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Alkaline water electrolysis
  • Bubble Overpotential
  • Concentration overpotential
  • Zero-gap
  • Zirfon PERL

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