Reverion – Reversibly operating fuels cells for clean energy and positive climate action

ISC3 – International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre

German spin-off from TU Munich, Reverion GmbH, has developed a new design for high temperature fuel cells, enabling a reversible operation as an electrolyzer with the same equipment. This innovation significantly increases the efficiency of the fuel cell system compared to the state of the art and at the same time allows for example conversion of excess generated energy into synthetic methane by electrolysis and feed into the natural gas grid.

Founding team (from left to right): Felix Fischer, Jeremias Weinrich, Stephan Herrmann, Luis Poblotzki, Maximilian Hauck (picture by Fabian Vogl)

Reverion prototype during field trial at a biogas plant in Erding, Germany (picture by Fabian Vogl)

Maximilian Hauck, Felix Fischer, Jeremias Weinreich during field trial (picture by Fabian Vogl)

Maximilian Hauck, Felix Fischer, Jeremias Weinreich during field trial (picture by Fabian Vogl)

Drone shot of Reverion prototype during field trial (picture by Fabian Vogl)

In that way, Reverion contributes to higher efficiency of renewable energies and generates positive impact on climate as well. For this reasons, Reverion, who was one of the ISC3 Innovation Challenge 2021 Finalists, has been chosen as our Start-up of the Month for May 2022.

Year of Foundation:  March 2022

Addresses the following SDGs: SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production).


Founding as a spin-off

Reverion started as a spin-off from Technical University Munich, originating from a research project under the name BioCORE funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research. The idea of BioCORE began in 2015, when Stephan Herrmann (co-founder, Business & Product Development) was doing his PhD at the Chair for Energy Systems at the TU Munich. He was working with high temperature fuel cells and developed a cycle design which became the basic concept for BioCORE. Cycle design in this context refers to the dual use of the system as a fuel cell or electrolyzer. In 2017, Stephan started to work together with Felix Fisher (co-founder, Operations & Sales) to verify the idea at lab scale. “The idea of a cycle design for the high temperature fuel cells Stephan has invented, was the main driving force to bring this technology to the market, and also to leverage the full potential of the fuel cells, because up to now, the systems which are available on the market, are not using the fuel cells in the best possible way. So, this optimization idea is the key of our technology”, Felix explains. They started applying for funding and teamed up with three other colleagues from TU Munich, which are now co-founders as well: Maximilian Hauck (Research & Development), Jeremias Weinrich (Sourcing & Manufacturing), and Luis Poblotzki (Automation & Control). The new team was working on a prototype since 2018 and is now ready for scaling up. With this progress, the spin-off came up recently with a new name – Reverion – which stands for their reverse process – depending on external needs it can provide electricity, but also use an excess of electricity to produce methane or hydrogen as energy storage.

Reversible design for high temperature fuel cells

Reverion’s system can be switched to an electrolysis operation and produce hydrogen from water, or the system can produce out of a mixture of hydrogen and CO/CO2 methane or other substances such as hydrocarbons. Furthermore, Reverion’s new design allows a much higher efficiency for a fuel cell system. “Compared to a conventional fuel cell system that can produce electricity at around 60% efficiency, we can do 80%. On top of that, our system is designed to be very quickly reversible. So, other companies that look at reversible systems, they talk about switching times of 15 to 30 minutes from one operating mode to the other one, we are talking about one minute or less,” Stephan explains. Reverion’s target is 30 seconds to switch from energy supply to chemical energy storage. This opens up a lot of opportunities in the energy markets as well, because Reverion's solution can provide balancing power to the renewable energy grid – for example, excess generation from wind turbines and photovoltaics can be converted into synthetic methane by electrolysis and fed into the natural gas grid, making it an appealing solution for grid operators to generate additional revenue. Furthermore, no emissions are released during the power generation process. The system generates pure CO2 that can be used in the reverse process when needed  or can be sold as a source for other industries or for the production of synthetic fuels, or it can be stored in some form of long-term sequestration. In this way, Reverion provides an economically viable carbon-negative process chain. For these reasons, the spin-off was also one of the winners of the XPrize Carbon Removal Student Competition in 2021.

For Reverion’s system, it doesn't matter how the gas or how much gas was produced. “We always said we want to focus where we can have the biggest impact on climate”. That is why Reverion chose biogas as their source, as they want to create more carbon negative electricity by using biogas instead of natural gas, for example. Also, using wastewater and waste from cattle and dairy farming for biogas production saves the groundwater resources and reduces nitrification of the groundwater. Reverion’s solution might also help to end the dependence on natural gas delivered from crisis areas, reducing the transport costs, which is also one of the current hot topics worldwide.

The primary customers of Reverion are biogas producers. When the standard engine in a biogas plant is replaced with Reverion's technology, biogas producers can increase their returns by producing twice as much electricity from the same amount of resources. Aside from that, they can sell the by-product CO2 to other industry customers. Reverion already receives a large number of customer requests from all over Germany. There are nearly 10,000 biogas plants in Germany and approximately 20,000 in Europe, indicating a large market for them.

Next steps at Reverion

The spin-off is currently focused on scaling up and further technology development for balancing the energy supply from renewable energy grids, in addition to batteries for energy storage, which offer short-term balancing, and the Reverion's innovation could help in the long run, for example, by transferring energy from summer in the form of gas and using it in winter. With their unique innovation, Reverion, who joined the ISC3 Global Start-up Service in July 2021 and was one of the ISC3 Innovation Challenge 2021 Finalists, contributes to SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production).

If you are interested in our Start-up of the Month series or would you like to learn more about our Global Start-up Service, please contact our Start-up Relations & Communications Manager Silvia Nikova.