A researcher from The University of New Mexico's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering is part of a team receiving $36.3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy in support of reducing the cost of clean hydrogen and advancing electrolysis technologies to improve manufacturing and recycling capabilities for clean hydrogen systems and components.

Jamie Gomez
Jamie Gomez

Jamie Gomez, a senior lecturer and researcher in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, is part of OxEon’s project titled “SOEC Manufacturing Systems Automation for High Throughput at Low Cost.” She will be conducting a comprehensive techno-economic analysis to deliver critical insights essential for the project’s scale up, focusing on assessing performance, efficiency, and cost implications.

Techno-economic analysis, a data-driven field that rigorously blends quantitative analysis of technology assessment with detailed financial considerations, is crucial for the advancement of early and very early-stage engineering projects, especially those that aim for breakthroughs in cost efficiency and scalability, she said.

The project will foster low-cost manufacturing of solid oxide electrolyzers, devices that represent a significant technological leap in water electrolysis. These devices efficiently split water into hydrogen and oxygen at lower electrical energy requirements compared to traditional low-temperature electrolysis systems.

The Department of Energy considers this technology as a promising way to transition to a renewable energy economy and there is high potential for synergy with renewable energy power generation. Hydrogen production via electrolysis presents opportunities for synergy with dynamic and intermittent power generation, which is characteristic of several renewable energy technologies.

In addition to collaborating with UNM, OxEon Energy is also partnering with several organizations including, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, University of Utah, Georgia Institute of Technology, Florida A&M University, and the Utah Advanced Materials & Manufacturing Initiative.

This project is critically aligned with the focus area of “Low-Cost, High-Throughput Electrolyzer Manufacturing,” as well as scaling up solid oxide electrolyzer manufacturing through advanced process automation. The project includes workforce and energy impact assessments to provide jobs for rural communities at the project manufacturing facility. Selected projects will conduct RD&D to enable greater economies of scale through electrolyzer manufacturing innovations, including automated manufacturing processes; design for processability and scale-up; advanced quality control methods; reduced critical mineral loadings; and design for end-of-life recovery and recyclability.

Gomez is also participating in a community partnership with Pajarito Powder, a startup company launched by Plamen Atanassov, a former distinguished professor in the department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at UNM. The company will be receiving $20 million from the Department of Energy for the two projects: “High Volume Production and Validation of Advanced Pt and Pt Alloy Catalysts on Engineered Carbon Supports” and “Oxygen Evolution Reaction Catalyst Scale-Up and Validation for Proton Exchange Membrane Water Electrolyzers.”

This collaboration is specifically tailored to enrich the capstone design experience of undergraduate students in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering by way of Department of Energy-funded projects, applying their acquired skills and knowledge to solve real-world problems, Gomez said.

Gomez said her longstanding involvement as the faculty advisor for the annual Engineering Expo at UNM underscores her dedication to experiential learning and student development. The event, which will be held 1 to 4 p.m. May 3, features poster sessions and elevator pitch presentations critiqued by industry professionals as part of the senior design/capstone experience for students in the School of Engineering.

These projects were announced by the Department of Energy this month as part of $750 million in funding for 52 projects to substantially reduce the cost of clean hydrogen and support American leadership in the growing hydrogen industry. The projects were selected for their ability to advance electrolysis technologies and improve manufacturing and recycling capabilities for clean hydrogen systems and components.

This announcement represents the first phase of implementation of two provisions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which authorizes $1 billion for research, development, demonstration, and deployment activities to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen produced via electrolysis and $500 million for research, development, and demonstration of improved processes and technologies for manufacturing and recycling clean hydrogen systems and materials. These projects will directly produce more than 1,500 new jobs, along with thousands of additional jobs indirectly generated through regional economic activity. Additionally, these projects will provide support to 32 disadvantaged communities.