Heraeus Precious Metals developing next-generation recycling technologies for H2Giga initiative to support hydrogen ramp-up

Hanau (Germany), February 23, 2022

  • As part of the H2Giga flagship project and as a partner of consortium leader Siemens Energy, Heraeus is developing technology for recovering the precious metals iridium and platinum from components of industrial electrolyzers; a key technology for generating green hydrogen
  • Heraeus is participating in two subprojects of H2Giga, which are funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The German government and the European Union have set ambitious targets for implementing the energy transition. PEM (proton exchange membrane) electrolysis, as a key technology, has a major role to play in this, as it produces green hydrogen from renewable electricity to meet the needs of industrial quantities.

To achieve the defined goals, the production of PEM electrolyzers must be brought to maturity for serial production. In order to meet the demand for catalysts in the long term, a raw materials strategy is needed for the rare iridium and platinum that are indispensable for catalyzing water splitting in an PEM electrolyzer. To address this critical requirement, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the implementation of important technologies for the ramp-up of the hydrogen economy in the H2Giga flagship project.

Within the H2Giga flagship project, Heraeus is involved in two sub-projects under consortium leader Siemens Energy to achieve maturity for serial production. Specifically, Heraeus is responsible for closing the value cycle for the critical raw materials iridium and platinum: As one of the world’s leading precious metals experts, Heraeus is developing catalysts for PEM electrolysis with a low precious metal content and smart recycling solutions that help to solve the problem of limited raw material availability through recovery. Both approaches enable the expansion of PEM electrolysis on an industrial scale.

Catalysts based on the precious metal iridium are indispensable in PEM electrolysis. They accelerate the oxygen evolution process and thus the parallel, platinum-catalyzed generation of hydrogen.

There are a number of specific challenges to be solved when recycling these scarce raw materials. This includes the return of precious metal-containing end-of-life electrodes from PEM electrolyzers, as well as the question of how these electrodes can be processed into recyclable material on the necessary scale. In particular, substances such as fluorine make this process challenging. Additionally, the further separation and purification of iridium is highly complex and will require new, specialized technologies to achieve the highest possible yield.

"To achieve the energy transition, green hydrogen must be produced in large quantities at a competitive price level," says Christian Gebauer, Head of Innovation Hydrogen Systems at Heraeus. "We are conducting intensive research to achieve higher catalyst performance with less raw material input. At the same time, we are working to advance the technology and capacity for recycling these critical raw materials. For series production, it is essential to take care of the raw material chain in a timely and sustainable manner."

As part of the H2Giga lead project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Heraeus is developing the technology for recovering the precious metals iridium and platinum from components of industrial electrolyzers. Source: Project Management Jülich on behalf of the BMBF
As part of the H2Giga flagship project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Heraeus is developing the technology for recovering the precious metals iridium and platinum from components of industrial electrolyzers.

Information about H2Giga and the project partners

H2Giga is one of three hydrogen flagship projects of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the idea competition "Hydrogen Republic of Germany". Divided into various subprojects and around 30 independent alliances, industry and science are working on the industrialization of water electrolysis to produce green hydrogen on an industrial scale. Funding of up to 500 million euros has been earmarked for the entire H2Giga lead project. Heraeus is participating in the scale-up subprojects DERIEL (De-risking electrolyzer) and SEGIWA (Series production GigaWatt).

Siemens Energy's partners in DERIEL are Heraeus Precious Metals, the Jülich Research Center, RWTH Aachen University, Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, OFFIS e.V., Leibniz University Hannover, Ruhr University Bochum, the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, and Pro-Aviation Consult GmbH as associated partners.

DERIEL deals with the processes necessary to start the recovery of the precious metals iridium and platinum. Beginning with the return of the precious metals as end-of-life electrodes, via preparation and finally sampling for recovery, the expansion of material quantities for electrolyzers in the gigawatt range are in focus

In addition to Heraeus, the project partners in SEGIWA are the Jülich Research Center, RWTH Aachen University, Hahn-Schickard Gesellschaft für angewandte Forschung e.V., the Leibniz Institute for Catalysis, Leibniz Universität Hannover, OFFIS e.V., Fumatech BWT GmbH and Main-Automation GmbH and FIR e.V. at RWTH Aachen University.

SEGIWA deals with the refining, i.e., the separation of the precious metals from the other substances contained, as well as the subsequent separation of platinum and iridium. SEGIWA is also responsible for the final conversion into precious metal precursor stages and products.

About Heraeus Precious Metals

Heraeus Precious Metals is a leading provider of precious metals services and products. We combine all activities related to our comprehensive expertise in the precious metals loop – from trading to precious metals products to recycling. We are one of the world’s largest refiners of platinum group metals (PGMs) and a leading name in industrial precious metals trading. Our precious metals products are used in a wide variety of industries, including the chemical, pharmaceutical, glass, electronics and automotive industries. We offer top quality solutions and products based on many years of experience and technical expertise. We are a reliable development partner for our customers and find the best solutions for their requirements.

About Heraeus

Heraeus, the technology group headquartered in Hanau, Germany, is a leading international family-owned portfolio company. The company’s roots go back to a family pharmacy started in 1660. Today, the Heraeus group includes businesses in the environmental, electronics, health and industrial applications sectors. Customers benefit from innovative technologies and solutions based on broad materials expertise and technological leadership.

In the 2020 financial year, Heraeus generated revenues of €31.5 billion with approximately 14,800 employees in 40 countries. Heraeus is now one of the top 10 family-owned companies in Germany and holds a leading position in its global markets.