Momentum event day one roundup: ‘materials in hydrogen economy’

December 13, 2023

The two-day micro Innovation Conference China forum started with ‘Materials in Hydrogen Economy’ at CM’s portfolio company Guofu Hydrogen in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu, China. With a focus on the Chinese hydrogen industry, the general takeaway is:  favorable policies for hydrogen energy have helped with rapid growth in annual fuel cell sales in China, but more needs to be done.


Guofu Hydrogen today is a lead player in the Chinese market, and CM Venture is proud to have invested early in 2019 – a time when they had no manufacturing equipment to speak of. Today, Guofu owns 33 acres of land to home its facilities in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu. Forum attendees touring the facilities and were impressed at the scale and depth of Guofu’s technology.


On-site forum speakers included Mikael Naouri, Head of Hydrogen Business at Air Liquide, Wan Jun, Hydrogen Business Development from Arkema and Dr Christian Neumann, Tech Evangelist, Heraeus. Here are key takeaways from the session.



Momentum event opening video with CM CEO Dr Min Zhou & Guofu Chairman Wu Pinfang



Air Liquide, a worldwide leader in hydrogen energy, shared what China can do to accelerate its development of the hydrogen industry:

  • Further develop policies to incentivize low-carbon solutions and green hydrogen certification.
  • Further advocacy and RCD (Regulations, Codes & Standards) needed, including publicity, compliance, and safety regulations
  • A need to scale up – current hydrogen energy projects need expansion. A rapid scaling-up of projects is required to meet China’s 2060 targets and reduce costs. This also includes facing challenges tackling P2X (Power to X) – ie. turning electricity into carbon-neutral synthetic fuels, such as electrolysis to hydrogen
  • Integration of hydrogen energy industry in the value chain needs to be prioritized by government agencies.
  • A need to develop new applications for H2, and furthering the national emissions trading scheme, including hard-to-decarbonize industries (with carbon tax as an option) to promote decarbonization efforts and make low-carbon projects competitive. This could be applied across industrial parks, airports, ports, etc.
  • A greater openness and transparency in the current renewable energy market.

Arkema shared an update on a new breakthrough material applicable to hydrogen storage cylinders:

  • A newly-created material, PA11, is made from castor oil and possesses excellent properties: rigidity, barrier properties, low density, and hygroscopicity. Hydrogen storage containers require materials with low permeation, excellent low-temperature performance, and low risk of foaming – all of which PA11 excels in.

Dynamic Hydrogen, a CM Venture portfolio startup,  shared its breakthrough tech which offers significant cost reduction potential in hydrogen production via “PEM Electrolyzer Membrane Electrodes with Low-Iridium Catalysts”. Heraeus, a CM Venture LP, also shared how recycling and thrifting precious metals are key to keep global hydrogen production sustainable. Cummins Inc. also shared a presentation on ‘Water Electrolyzer Status and Development Trend’, with insights on advances on Cummins PEM electrolyzer technology and cost-reduction targets. In summary:

  • Precious metals are key for hydrogen production. Iridium is used in electrolysis to produce hydrogen, but is a scarce and precious metal with a global annual output of just 10 tons.
  • The cost of PEM electrolyzer membrane electrodes is about 1,600 yuan/kW, with Iridium catalysts making more than half of the cost.
  • Cost reduction and promotion of PEM electrolyzers allow a combination of low-iridium technology catalysts and iridium recycling to maximize iridium resources.

Collaboratively, the challenges in developing low-Iridium PEM Electrolyzer Catalysts & Membrane Electrodes are clear:

  • Existing Ir (Ru) based precious metal oxygen-evolution catalysts cannot achieve high activity and stability at the same time.
  • At high current densities, electron conduction and gas-liquid mass transfer in the catalytic layer of membrane electrodes are hindered, making efficient catalytic performance challenging.
  • Limited understanding of the oxygen evolution reaction mechanism and structural fissure mechanisms in operating conditions

Cummins Inc. also projected the cost reduction and reliability of PEM Electrolyzers outlook:

  • A 30% cost reduction is possible in the next 3 years, with a 70% reduction within 5 years. • Strategies include developing low-cost membranes and catalyst solutions, changing bipolar plates (from etching to stamping), and switching plating (from electroplating to PVD), among others.
  • Currently, catalysts are not the main factor limiting lifespan; issues like membrane perforation are more critical.
  • Improving the reliability of PEM electrolyzers requires enhancing the reliability of the entire supply chain.

Video header subtitle