Nickel Foam as a Material for AEM Hydrogen Electrolyzers

Nickel foam is a metal material with high permeability and low density, three-dimensional reticulated foam, which is a new type of material that is developing rapidly in current materials science. The foam structure gives nickel metal an open pore structure, which gives it excellent permeability and significant heat transfer and dissipation properties.

Nickel foam is made by plating on a special polymer material skeleton with a three-dimensional mesh structure, such as polyurethane, polyester urethane, and other special polymer materials (sponges). After the plating is completed, the metal foam product is finally made by burning off the internal polymer material and reducing metal oxides, and shaped by chemical heat treatment machining.

With its lightweight and electrically conductive properties, Nickel foam is one of the key constituent materials of AEM's hydrogen generation electrolyzers, providing an ideal solution for efficient and sustainable hydrogen production.

Three pieces of nickel foam of different densities and thicknesses

Nickel foam

Working Principle

In the AEM hydrogen production reaction, nickel foam is used as the material for the porous transportation layer (PTL) in the electrolyzer, which affects the efficiency and stability of the entire electrolysis system.

Nickel acts as a good electrical conductor to ensure electron transfer through pores in the reaction environment. The three-dimensional structure of nickel foam provides good support for the reaction environment and helps maintain the stability and structural strength of the electrode. Meanwhile, the porous structure of nickel foam provides a large active surface area, which enhances the reaction rate.

Explosive view of AEM cell structure, labelled with the reaction principle and nickel foam

Nickel foam as PTL material for AEMs


  • Holes number (PPI): 13–120 (±5–10)
  • Holes number per inch: 110
  • Surface density (g/m3): 280–3,000 (±30–200)
  • Thickness (mm): 0.5–10 (±0.05–1.0)
  • Length/Width (mm): 70 – 500 (±0.5)
  • Pore size: 20 ppi – 110 ppi
  • Porosity: 98%
  • Through-hole rate: ≥ 98%
  • Surface density: 350 g/m2
  • Geometric size: 960 mm × length, can be customized upon request


  • High conductivity:

    Nickel is a good conductor of electricity, and the three-dimensional structure of nickel foam provides a higher surface area, which aids in the distribution of electric current.

  • Catalytic:

    Nickel foam is usually coated with a catalyst such as nickel or other suitable catalysts. These catalysts help catalyze the water electrolysis reaction, which breaks down water into hydrogen and oxygen. The foam structure provides a high surface area that facilitates catalyst distribution and reaction efficiency.

  • Support structure:

    The three-dimensional structure of nickel foam provides good support and helps maintain the stability and structural strength of the electrode, ensuring long-term operation.

  • Ion transport:

    In alkaline environments, nickel foam allows the transport of hydroxide ions (OH-), facilitating water electrolysis reactions.

  • Improved electrode activity:

    Nickel foam's porous structure greatly enhances the reaction area, increasing the reaction rate and improving efficiency.

  • Lightweight:

    Nickel foam structures are typically lighter than solid materials, helping to reduce the overall weight of the structure.


Nickel foam has a variety of functions such as damping, vibration damping, noise reduction, flame retardant, filtration, electromagnetic shielding, etc. It plays a role in the fields of electrochemical engineering, chemical engineering, automobile, petroleum and so on:

  • Electrochemical Engineering

    It is used in AEM electrolytic hydrogen production, electrocatalytic process, electrochemical metallurgy, and other scenarios. It appears in the positive and negative electrode position of nickel-metal hydride, nickel-cadmium, fuel cell, and other batteries, so that the performance of the battery is improved exponentially, and the nickel foam-carbon composite electrode material is also an ideal material for lithium batteries.

  • Chemical Engineering

    It can be used as catalysts and their carriers, filtration media, and media separators (such as oil-water separators, car exhaust cleaners, air purifiers, etc.), because of its large specific surface area, so it can reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency.

  • Thermal

    It can be used as a damping material and a highly efficient thermal conductive "wick" material for "heat pipe", which can increase efficiency exponentially.

  • Functional Materials

    It can be used as a damping material to absorb wave energy. It can play the role of noise cancellation, vibration absorption, buffer electromagnetic shielding, invisible technology, flame retardant, heat insulation, etc.

2 pieces of foam nickel for conducting vibration damping tests

Nickel foam as damping material for vibration damping and isolation

Some strips of nickel foam for EMI shielding

Nickel foam as EMI shielding material

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