SBIR Phase I: High Efficiency Electrochemical Compressor Cell to Enable Cost Effective Small-Scale Hydrogen Fuel Production and Recycling

Award Information
National Science Foundation
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Proton Energy Systems, Inc
10 Technology Drive, Wallingford, CT, 06492-1955
Hubzone Owned:
Minority Owned:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Kathy Ayers
(203) 678-2190
Business Contact:
Kathy Ayers
(203) 678-2190
Research Institution:

Review Analysis This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project addresses current limitations in hydrogen compression and enables reduction in hydrogen requirements for several applications through recycling of exhaust hydrogen containing water and other benign impurities. This project will demonstrate the feasibility of operating a proton exchange membrane (PEM)-based device as a high efficiency electrochemical compressor/purifier. Advantages over previous research in PEM-based hydrogen pumps include use of a microporous plate for improved water distribution, which will enable more uniform fluid distribution and high current densities. The objectives of this phase include demonstration of a prototype cell, determining the separation efficiency of a prototype device as a function of output pressure, and developing design boundaries for optimization in Phase 2 and integration into a system. Cell stack design experience along with the improved plate technology will be utilized in order to address current limitations due to local membrane dryout. The anticipated result will be an improved hydrogen recycler which will enable substantial reduction in hydrogen production cost and new market opportunities. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project includes applications ranging from power plants to heat treating to backup power and fueling. For example, over 16,000 power plants worldwide use hydrogen as a cooling fluid in the turbine windings. Currently, increases in dew point cause significant decreases in cooling efficiency and increase windage losses by several percent, requiring purging of the hydrogen chamber and increased production to backfill. Thus, significant energy waste is generated. Current solutions for hydrogen compression are also noisy, bulky, and inefficient. In applications where hydrogen is being evaluated as an alternative fuel, high pressure storage is needed. Having a mechanical compressor that represents half of the size and material cost of a home fueling or backup power device is not commercially feasible. The device proposed has the opportunity to decrease the energy required to produce pure hydrogen by 75% over generating additional hydrogen from water, and to compress the hydrogen with as little as 100 mV of overpotential even at high current density. Advances in these areas would find immediate commercial interest, and address key strategic areas on the government agenda related to energy savings and green technology.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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