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Wallingford, CT, United States

Grant
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 691.21K | Year: 2016

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research Phase II project includes applications ranging from peak load shifting, grid buffering for renewable energy input, frequency regulation, and chemical conversions. As the percentage of energy from renewables on the grid increases, energy storage will be essential to stabilize the supply and demand. Currently, 20-40% of wind energy is often stranded due to the inability to capture the energy in the peak generation periods. Germany, Europe, Japan, Korea, and other countries are funding significant efforts in energy storage projects. Energy storage is also a critical need for all of the United States armed services, including microgrids for forward operating bases. While batteries can demonstrate very good round trip efficiencies, they suffer from self-discharge, capacity fade, and high cost. Flow batteries separate the reactant and product storage from the electrode active area, enabling higher capacities through merely adding more storage. Many systems have not been practical in the past due to low energy density values, but fuel cell and electrolysis developments have provided pathways to higher energy density. Advances in these areas would find immediate commercial interest, and address key strategic areas related to energy security and grid stabilization and resiliency. The objectives of this Phase II research project are: 1) flow field design for balanced fluid distribution in both operating modes and minimization of shunt currents; 2) selection of catalysts and membranes for reversibility, durability and efficiency requirements; 3) integration and testing of Proton components with the Sustainable Innovations embodiment hardware; 4) scale up to a full size stack and operation in both modes at SI; and 5) development of a performance model in collaboration with SI based on the final configuration. These objectives address present limitations in energy storage solutions. While traditional batteries can demonstrate very good round trip efficiencies, they suffer from self-discharge, capacity fade, and high cost. Flow batteries separate the reactant and product storage from the electrode active area, enabling higher capacities through merely adding more storage. Many systems have not been practical in the past due to low energy density values, but fuel cell and electrolysis developments have provided pathways to higher energy density. Advances in these areas would find immediate commercial interest, and address key strategic areas related to energy security and grid stabilization and resiliency. The anticipated result will be a highly efficient, durable flow battery system with high power density.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 1.00M | Year: 2014

Proton OnSite manufactures hydrogen generation systems which can be integrated with renewable energy sources to generate hydrogen fuel while producing minimal carbon footprint. This project aims to reduce the energy required to manufacture these units through development of improved electrode application methods and reduction in platinum group metal usage.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2015

Statement of the problem or situation that is being addressed: A major challenge in successful development of unitized regenerative fuel cells (URFCs) is the bifunctional air/oxygen electrode. In proton exchange membrane-based systems, the number of stable elements at electrolysis potentials is extremely limited, restricting the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) / oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalyst to PGM-containing compounds. Proton OnSite and Rutgers University therefore propose a non-PGM, bifunctional OER/ORR catalyst system for alkaline exchange membrane (AEM)-based unitized regenerative fuel cells. Our proposal aims to bring together the advances in nonnoble electrolyzer catalysts developed at Rutgers, and Protons expertise in AEM electrolyzers, regenerative fuel cells, stack development and integration. The advantages of alkaline URFCs are as follows: Lower cost non precious metal catalysts Lower cost bipolar plate components Lower cost balance of plant components. Objective and approach for Phase 1 project: Phase 1 will focus on electrochemical synthesis, analysis and application of synthesized catalyst powders with the objective of obtaining maximum stability and performance while eliminating PGM content on the oxygen side of the cell. Furthermore, concurrent cell development will be conducted in order to characterize and enable fuel cell and electrolysis on a single cell platform by optimizing catalyst ionomer ratio and loading, as well as flow properties of water through the anodic and cathodic compartments of the URFC. Electrocatalysts developed at Rutgers have been previously evaluated by Proton in AEM electrolysis cells, with performance on par with Protons state of the art precious metal catalysts. To be successful as a URFC these electrodes will have to perform the additional catalytic tasks of ORR in fuel cell mode. Preliminary data from Rutgers shows promise in this regard, and there is much to more to be gained by further catalyst optimization and the utilization of transition metal supports. The end deliverables of the Phase 1 effort will be an understanding of catalyst-ionomer-polymerelectrode structure-property relationships necessary to develop a high performance alkaline membrane URFC based on a non- PGM oxygen electrode. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: For commercial energy markets, the main roadblock to implementation of regenerative fuel cells is the capital and operating cost of the PEM electrolyzer and fuel cell stacks. Alkaline exchange membrane-based fuel cells and electrolyzers offer a much more cost effective platform due to the potential use of non-noble metal catalysts and cheaper stack components. Further, a combined fuel cell and electrolyzer system, a so-called unitized regenerative fuel cell (URFC), decreases the total amount of stack and BoP components. Combining the fuel cell and electrolyzer stacks and integrating the balance of plant has the potential to result in significant additional cost savings to enable these markets. The electrode developments being pursued here should be easily integrated into the full scale stack as elements are proven. There is nearly 100 GW of wind energy generation in Europe and limitations are already being experienced in grid management, requiring energy storage. Hydrogen provides a dispatchable energy storage media and can serve an existing need to capture stranded wind energy resources. Next generation products could also include subassemblies and systems for telecommunications backup power systems, and for air independent energy storage devices for underwater and high altitude unmanned platforms. Key Words: alkaline exchange membranes, electrolysis, fuel cell, hydrogen generation, regenerative fuel cell, energy storage, bi-functional catalysts Summary for Members of Congress: This project aims to develop a more efficient bidirectional AEM cell stack which can ultimately be deployed for low cost and lightweight energy storage requirements. The innovation will provide a cost effective and simpler system approach to generating hydrogen via electrolysis, and converting it back to electricity in fuel cell mode.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 744.20K | Year: 2015

The proposed innovation is the development of a cathode feed electrolysis cell stack capable of generating 3600 psi oxygen at a relevant scale for future exploration missions. This innovation is relevant to NASA's need for compact, quiet, efficient, and long-lived sources of pressurized oxygen for atmosphere revitalization (AR) and EVA oxygen storage recharge. Present AR equipment aboard International Space Station (ISS) consists of power-intensive, noisy compressors that have service lives less than 2 years. Proton's proposed electrolyzer stack will eliminate the need for these compressors, by developing a cell stack that can produce 3600 psia oxygen via electrochemical compression. This innovation results in a quiet, efficient, solid state device with no internal moving parts to service or fail.


Patent
Proton Energy Systems, Inc. | Date: 2015-02-12

An electrochemical cell is provided. The electrochemical cell includes a first frame, the frame having at least one first cleat feature arranged on one side, the at least one first cleat feature having a first height. A second frame is provided having at least one second cleat feature arranged on one side, the at least one second cleat feature having a second height. A membrane electrode assembly (MEA) is disposed between the first and second frame, the MEA having a first electrode disposed on a first side of a membrane and a second electrode disposed on a second side opposite the first electrode. A first gasket is disposed between the membrane and the first frame, the first gasket engaging the at least one first cleat feature. A second gasket is disposed between the membrane and the second frame, the second gasket engaging the at least one second cleat feature.

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