Contributing to the BIG picture… by focusing on the tiny scale


Where does the magic of a full-scale system of electrolysers happen? If you ask Hystar Research and Development Engineer, Firdaus Hendricks, it’s all about what takes place in the lab.

Currently based in Trondheim, Norway, Firdaus originally comes from South Africa. With a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a background working with fuel cell technology, she dares to think big, even when working on a very tiny scale. As she notes, even the very tiny aspects you don’t see can influence the performance of the whole system.

When creating a full-scale system of electrolysers, the first stop is the lab. Here, components are carefully selected, tested, and assessed before they are transformed into the stack – the heart of Hystar’s patented technology. Several stacks are then assembled into a system, where hydrogen can be produced. In the process of going from tiny components into a real-life system, everyone needs to be involved and we need to take a holistic approach, as Senior Systems Engineer Eddy explained in a previous HyStory. And Firdaus agrees with this, while still maintaining that the “real magic” happens in the lab.

The detailed view

As she explains, you can learn a lot about a system’s performance by zooming in and looking at the unique components from a micro-perspective. Understanding how components interact with each other becomes a big indicator of good or bad performance, which, again, reflects whether you will have a good or bad product in the end. So, when it comes to creating high performing electrolyses, the devil truly is in the details.

For Hystar, this kind of perspective is key. Our PEM technology is already 150% more efficient than conventional designs. And in order to keep that competitive edge, a focus on continuously improving performance is vital.

Zooming in - and out again

Loving what you do definitely helps keep motivation up, as Firdaus can attest to.

“A big part of my motivation has always been to contribute to a greener society. And that’s relevant whether in regards to using the microscope to look into the small details that give us an understanding of the bigger picture – like the quality of the finish or tolerances – or zooming out to see a scaled-up version of our designs come to life.”

Hydrogen has a major role to play in making the energy transition happen and in Hystar, we’re passionate about helping that to happen. And it’s not just about the final results, either; it’s about all the steps that get us there and ensuring they’re sustainable, too. For example, the choice of components, how they’re assembled, and eventually the full system; everything needs to be selected and utilized in a sustainable way.

All this said, working on the micro level didn’t come easy for Firdaus.

“Studying as a mechanical engineer, you often must think on a macro scale,” she notes. “So taking the ‘shrink-it-down’ approach was a bit different for me. And, of course, the challenge is to shrink down your area of focus without shrinking down your thinking!”