In Europe, which has set challenging green hydrogen production targets as part of its strategy to improve energy independence, Heraeus is working with the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to develop a recovery and recycling strategy for iridium and platinum in PEM electrolysers. There are a number of specific challenges to be solved when recycling these scarce raw materials, including the return of precious metal-containing end-of-life electrodes from PEM electrolysers, as well as the question of how these electrodes can be processed into recyclable material at the necessary scale. Additionally, the further separation and purification of iridium is highly complex, requiring specialised technologies to achieve the highest possible recovery.
Heraeus’s work highlights how the circular economy gives existing end-users and those developing new technologies reassurance as to the long-term sustainability and security of platinum availability, allaying fears concerning the potential for eventual resource depletion. In addition, circularity contributes towards producers’ own efforts to improve sustainability and lower environmental impact.