However, the economics of electrolysis and fuel cell systems for energy conversion relies heavily on the costs of electricity and of metals like nickel, platinum, iridium, and titanium. Electrolyzer operating expenses must be minimized for green hydrogen to become an economically viable option. The electricity input contributes heavily to cost. Thus, decreasing the cost of renewable energy is a necessary step. Solar panels becoming more efficient and affordable within the past decades is cause for optimism in this regard , but there is much more that can be done to increase the success of green hydrogen. More efficient electrolyzers could make better use of the input electricity and the development of cheaper and more durable components can reduce both the capital and operational costs.
Cross-disciplinary interest in green hydrogen
Electrolyzers are primarily electrochemical devices with electrocatalysts responsible for water splitting (Figure 1). The scientific challenges related to optimizing electrolyzers are attracting the attention of researchers that are not traditionally trained in electrochemistry. The search for efficient HER (Hydrogen Evolution Reaction) and OER (Oxygen Evolution Reaction) electrocatalysts also piques the interest of inorganic chemists and physicists. Development of better membranes calls for expertise in organic and polymer chemistry. Optimization of catalyst inks and their interaction with substrates requires the know-how of a materials scientist. Heat and mass flow management within the fuel cell stack and balance of plant are engineering endeavors. Clearly, the ongoing development of green hydrogen technologies has encouraged the collaboration of scientists and engineers across many disciplines. The result is an influx of creativity and insight, as well as development of exciting new materials and techniques.
Figure 1. Diagram of the electrolysis of water (water splitting) with respective half reactions at the cathode and anode in alkaline and acidic media.
Back to basics
Working in an unfamiliar domain means there is a need for quickly getting up to speed with best practices and learning a new scientific vocabulary. For many institutions, education on electrochemical principles and laboratory skills was not a key focus area until recent years.
In some cases, the deficiency of fundamental electrochemical training has led to inconsistencies in the reporting of important performance indicators. The electrochemical community has taken note of this and called for a more rigorous approach. As a result, experts have stepped up and provided practical guidance for quantifying and reporting in this domain.
When investigating electrocatalyst materials it is necessary to have benchmarks and well-defined performance indicators. In 2013, a comprehensive benchmarking protocol for evaluating and reporting figures of merit for OER electrocatalysts was published.
Find out more about reference electrodes and their usage in our free Application Note.
A common ground to stand on
Finding common language and understanding between these different fields is vital. This JOC synopsis article  clarifies electrochemical concepts for organic chemists. The article is highly visual, providing schematics that link concepts like free energy, redox potential, and overpotential. Equilibrium thermodynamics helps to provide a common point of reference that all chemists can relate to.
The articles highlighted in this blog post represent just a small fraction of the many resources available for building a common understanding and better collaboration among all researchers working on the improvement of green hydrogen technologies. When the COVID pandemic shut down laboratory work and travel for many people, the research community carried on with enthusiasm.
Online seminars and working groups held openly and without cost have brought scientists together across disciplines and from around the world. For example, the Electrochemical Online Colloquium was started in 2021. This ongoing series of lectures addresses essential topics in electrochemistry by providing educational content alongside the personal perspective of expert speakers.
 Green Hydrogen Cost Reduction: Scaling up Electrolysers to Meet the 1.5°C Climate Goal; International Renewable Energy Agency: Abu Dhabi, 2020.
 McCrory, C. C. L.; Jung, S.; Peters, J. C.; et al. Benchmarking Heterogeneous Electrocatalysts for the Oxygen Evolution Reaction. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135 (45), 16977–16987. doi:10.1021/ja407115p
 Niu, S.; Li, S.; Du, Y.; et al. How to Reliably Report the Overpotential of an Electrocatalyst. ACS Energy Lett. 2020, 5 (4), 1083–1087. doi:10.1021/acsenergylett.0c00321
 Jerkiewicz, G. Standard and Reversible Hydrogen Electrodes: Theory, Design, Operation, and Applications. ACS Catal. 2020, 10 (15), 8409–8417. doi:10.1021/acscatal.0c02046
 Nutting, J. E.; Gerken, J. B.; Stamoulis, A. G.; et al. “How Should I Think about Voltage? What Is Overpotential?”: Establishing an Organic Chemistry Intuition for Electrochemistry. J. Org. Chem. 2021, 86 (22), 15875–15885. doi:10.1021/acs.joc.1c01520
 Lamy, C.; Millet, P. A Critical Review on the Definitions Used to Calculate the Energy Efficiency Coefficients of Water Electrolysis Cells Working under near Ambient Temperature Conditions. J. Power Sources 2020, 447, 227350. doi:10.1016/j.jpowsour.2019.227350