Porous transport layers for electrochemical production of hydrogen and green molecules

Electrochemical devices will play a crucial role as one of the solutions for the energy transition towards renewable energy sources. Technologies such as water electrolyzers, fuel cells and redox flow batteries help enable widespread electrification while coping with intermittent energy production. Both cost and performance of these energy solutions have seen a tremendous improvement over the past decade.

At the heart of these devices is the so-called stack where electrochemical reactions take place. Key components include membrane/separator, electro-catalyst, porous transport layer (PTL) and bipolar plate.

A porous transport layer, sometimes referred to as gas diffusion layer (GDL) or current collector, has multiple functionalities that influence performance and durability of the electrochemical device. An ideal porous transport layer should:

  • Enable efficient flow of gaseous/liquid reactants/products
  • Have high electrical, and thermal, conductivity
  • Be corrosion resistant towards the specific environment
  • Have tuned interface towards other components such as membrane and electro-catalyst

Sintered metal fiber media as porous transport layer

Sintered metal fiber media are excellent candidates as porous transport layer for any electrochemical device. They possess intrinsic high permeability and strength, the metal/alloy can be selected to match corrosion requirements, fiber diameter / porosity can be tuned to change surface / contact area.

Sintered metal fiber media have pore sizes in the µm-range. Compared to sintered metal powder, higher porosity, and thus permeability, can be achieved at similar pore size. Compared to metal foam, sintered metal fiber media enable a stepwise reduction in pore size and corresponding increase in surface area.

A proven track record in electrochemical applications

Bekaert has a history of more than 20 years in providing these structures to various electrochemical applications, including water electrolysis, electrochemical CO2 reduction and fuel cells. Several of these products have been commercialized. Bekaert is a proud partner of various leading technology developers. 

A selection of recent papers where Bekaert’s sintered metal fibers have been used as porous transport layers:

Tobias Schuler et al 2019 J. Electrochem. Soc. 166 F270
Polymer Electrolyte Water Electrolysis: Correlating Porous Transport Layer Structural Properties and Performance: Part I. Tomographic Analysis of Morphology and Topology

Tobias Schuler et al 2019 J. Electrochem. Soc. 166 F555
Polymer Electrolyte Water Electrolysis: Correlating Performance and Porous Transport Layer Structure: Part II. Electrochemical Performance Analysis

Stefanie M.A.Kriescher et al 2015 Electrochemistry Communications Volume 50, January 2015, Pages 64-68
A membrane electrode assembly for the electrochemical synthesis of hydrocarbons from CO2(g) and H2O(g)

Grace A. Lindquist et al 2021 ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2021,FORUM ARTICLE, August 10, 2021
Performance and Durability of Pure-Water-Fed Anion Exchange Membrane Electrolyzers Using Baseline Materials and Operation

Product specifications

Bekaert offers sintered metal fiber media which can be modified depending on customer request. Ni media is available for alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) and anion-exchange-membrane (AEM) water electrolysis, Ti media for proton-exchange-membrane (PEM) water electrolysis and Cu for electrochemical CO2 reduction. Download our product sheet

  • Metal: 316L, Ti, Ni, Cu
  • Fiber diameter range
    • 2 – 40 µm (316L)
    • 10 - 50 µm (Ti, Ni, Cu, ...)
  • Porosity: 40% - 90%
  • Thickness: 100 µm - 2 mm
  • Dimensions: shape and cutting customizable according to customer need
  • Multilayers: combination of multiple fiber diameters enabling structure with pore gradient
  • Coatings: Additional protective coating (e.g. Pt) for increased durability

External collaboration

Bekaert is partner of European H2020 project LOTER.CO2M, which aims to develop advanced, low-cost electro-catalysts and membranes for the direct electrochemical reduction of CO2 to methanol by low temperature CO2-H2O co-electrolysis.

Together with other industrial pioneers like Colruyt Group, DEME and John Cockerill, Bekaert is joining forces with Flemish research centres imec and VITO (partners in EnergyVille), to invest in the production of green hydrogen. Under the flag of Hyve, the consortium aims at a cost-efficient and sustainable production of hydrogen at gigawatt level. Hyve will put the Flemish region in the driver seat for the deployment of a hydrogen economy and the transition towards a carbon neutral industry in Europe.