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What Could Potentially Lower The Cost Of Producing Clean Hydrogen?

Oil and Gas Industries

As a Steel Tubing Supplier, we understand just how important it is for the production of clean hydrogen in chemical industrial processes and within the steel industry.

Both scientists and researchers are currently seeking low-cost methods for the production of clean hydrogen.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are saying that they have developed a low-cost catalyst. A low-cost catalyst is going to, ultimately, drive down the cost of electrolysis, which is known as the process of producing clean hydrogen from water.

How To Produce Clean Hydrogen

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers are able to split water into hydrogen and oxygen with higher efficiency. Not only that, but they can do this at near room temperature. The PEM electrolyzers are using renewable, but intermittent, sources - such as solar and wind. As a result, they have become a preferred choice for producing clean hydrogen.

The PEM electrolyzer runs with separate catalysts for each of its electrodes, known as cathode and anode. The cathode catalyst yields hydrogen. Whereas, the anode catalyst forms oxygen. However, when it comes to the anode catalyst, researchers say the problem is that it uses iridium. Iridium has a very high market price right now - around $5,000 per ounce. A lack of supply and the high cost of iridium is posing a major barrier for the widespread adoption of PEM electrolyzers.

Low-Cost Catalyst

Researchers have recently discovered a different ingredient to utilize, in replace of iridium. The main ingredient in their new low-cost catalyst is referred to as cobalt. The cobalt ingredient is substantially cheaper than the iridium ingredient.

Giner Inc. is a leading research and development company working towards commercialization of electrolyzers and fuel cells. This company thoroughly evaluated the new catalyst, by using their PEM electrolyzer test stations under industrial operating conditions. The performance and durability of the new catalyst far exceeded that of competitors’ catalysts.

Research teams were able to decipher critical structural changes that transpire in the catalyst, particularly when under operating conditions. This was discovered by using X-ray analyses at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne. In addition to that, researchers were also able to identify key catalyst features. The features were identified using electron microscopy at Sandia Labs and at Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM).

Computational modeling at Berkeley Lab revealed important insights into the catalyst’s durability under reaction conditions.

More generally, our results establish a promising path forward in replacing catalysts that are made from expensive precious metals with elements that are much less expensive and more abundant,” said Di-Jia Liu, senior chemist at Argonne.

This research was published on May 12 in Science. It has been supported by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office, as well as by Argonne Laboratory Directed Research and Development funding.

The U.S. Department of Energy has a goal to successfully lower the cost for green hydrogen production in a decade, particularly to one dollar per kilogram.


Clark, Kevin. “Researchers say new catalyst could lower the cost of producing clean hydrogen.” American Boiler Manufacturers Association (blog), May 31, 2023, /researchers-say-new-catalyst-could-lower-the-cost/.

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