Energy Storage with Highly‑Efficient Electrolysis and Fuel Cells: Experimental Evaluation of Bifunctional Catalyst Structures

Enno Wagner, Erik Delp, Rakesh Mishra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the roll-out of renewable energies, highly-efficient storage systems are needed to be developed to enable sustainable use of these technologies. For short duration lithium-ion batteries provide the best performance, with storage efficiencies between 70 and 95%. Hydrogen based technologies can be developed as an attractive storage option for longer storage durations. But, common polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyzers and fuel cells have round-trip system efficiencies of only 30–40%, and platinum and rare iridium catalysts are needed. Thus, it is a major challenge to increase the energy conversion efficiency of electrolyzers and fuel cells significantly, and at the same time to use non-precious catalysts. The present work experimentally examines the usefulness of a bifunctional NiC catalyst in two different assemblies: an alkaline fuel cell (AFC) with electrolyte gap and gas diffusion electrodes and an alkaline membrane electrolyzer (AEL). The performance characteristics of the novel system are compared with a reversible PEM fuel cell. While the AEL reaches acceptable power densities, the PEM based system still performs better than the proposed system. The AFC with an electrolyte gap provides remarkable results as it shows vanishingly small overvoltage during electrolysis at temperatures around 90 °C and current density of 100 mA cm−2: an electrolyzer efficiency of about 100% could be achieved for the single cell. The round-trip efficiency was also very high: 65% were realized with 50 mA cm−2. While the current density must be improved, this is a promising result for designing highly-efficient energy storage systems based on alkaline fuel cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)546-559
Number of pages14
JournalTopics in Catalysis
Issue number5-8
Early online date13 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


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