Wallingford, CT, United States
Wallingford, CT, United States

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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.


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

A separator plate and a frame member for an electrochemical cell are provided. The separator plate includes a plurality of protrusions extending therefrom to define a flow field. A pair of end features arranged along opposite sides of the flow field, each end feature extending substantially the length of the flow field. A periphery portion is provided having a first set of openings and a second set of openings. Wherein the plurality of protrusions and pair of end features extend from a plane defined by the periphery portion. The frame member includes features for facilitating assembly and reducing the risk of an over constrained condition. The frame member further having ports divided by a bridge member to support the frame member under operating pressures.


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.


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 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 Agriculture | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 500.00K | Year: 2015

The Haber-Bosch process, one of the most impactful developments in human history, has provided enough fertilizer to the world that it is estimated nearly half of the nitrogen found in our bodies originated in a Haber-Bosch chemical plant. However, this technological marvel comes at a price. On U.S. farms, 29% of energy consumed (directly and indirectly) is in the form of fertilizers, and these same fertilizers are the second largest contributor to green house gas emissions. This is because the Haber-Bosch process must operate at high pressures and high temperatures to convert highly inert nitrogen gas to fertilizer. In addition, to obtain hydrogen for the reaction, fossil fuel reforming is used, resulting in a high carbon foot print. The extreme conditions and pre- and post-processing steps combined with the low equilibrium conversion makes these facilities highly capital intensive, inefficient and polluting. More sustainable and economical ammonia production methods will be required to support growing world demand for fertilizer.One alternative approach is to use electricity to drive the ammonia production reaction, decreasing the need for high pressure and heat thereby decreasing the energy demand and making the process more efficient. This electrochemically driven process is compatible with the use of renewable electricity, eliminating CO2 emissions from the production step. A natural synergy exists in using wind power for fertilizer production. In the Plains and Upper Midwest, excess wind production capacity, transmission limitations, and high regional demand for N-fertilizers combine to create excellent economic drivers for this technology. In addition, because electrolysis technology is highly scalable, further reduction of emissions will be realized through the reduced need for ammonia transport. Products could be envisioned that support a range of small to mid-sized farms, or could be designed on a larger scale to distribute ammonia locally for multiple farms.Our team proposes development of an efficient solid state electrochemical process utilizing anion exchange membrane (AEM) technology, which can be optimized for use with distributed renewable energy sources. This AEM-based technology is ideal for ammonia synthesis because the membranes are not expected to readily react with ammonia, enable low-cost materials of construction, and they allow the utilization of a wider array of low-cost catalysts. Results from our Phase I work showed that our AEM-based electrochemical technology is uniquely capable of low temperature and low pressure ammonia generation at an efficiency which will match the energy requirements of the Haber-Bosch process. The team has extensive competencies in cell design, tailoring of membrane and catalyst properties, and balance of plant design and integration, providing a strong foundation for the proposed work.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2016

Ammonia (NH3) is a top 10 energy consuming chemical in the United States (U.S.) and one of the most energy intensive chemicals to manufacture in the world. In addition to consuming 1-2% of world-wide energy, the production of NH3 also generates 350 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions yearly, which is ~1% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions world-wide. As such, novel NH3 manufacturing techniques have the potential to have an extremely large impact on total energy consumption and emissions. However, promising new processes for efficient and emission-free NH3 generation, such as electrochemical ammonia synthesis, require novel catalyst design and synthesis approaches, which do not exist today. Current electro-catalysts suffer from a tendency to adsorb protons instead of nitrogen at the surface, and result in low device efficiencies due to competition with hydrogen generation. Objective and approach for Phase 1 project: To enable a more efficient and green electrochemical ammonia generation process, Proton OnSite and their partners propose to develop a catalyst manufacturing approach which will utilize bi-functional peptides to 1) control nanoparticle (NP) synthesis, and 2) functionalize the NP catalyst surface to facilitate a more organized and favorable reactant environment for NH3 production. Peptide sequences will be chosen from the enzyme nitrogenase, and will mimic the natural function of the enzyme to achieve a highly efficient and specific catalyst material. They will flex their already existing electrochemical ammonia test bed, which features an alkaline-based design. This design has the potential for low-cost materials of construction, and models suggest the potential to consume less energy than the incumbent ammonia generation processes used today, if an efficient catalyst is developed. The alkaline-based design also allows for the use of a greater variety of potentially more active and selective materials, including peptides. In Phase I, the key technology advancement will be to demonstrate production of ammonia from nitrogen and water in an electrochemical system utilizing the proposed peptide-functionalized nanocatalyst approach. The main goal will be show that the developed material has higher performance than other catalysts found in literature at low temperatures, which typically have not had greater than 1% Faradic efficiency. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: The successful development of an easily manufactured active and selective peptide-functionalized nanocatalyst for electrochemical ammonia generation would enable Proton OnSite to flex their electrolyzer stack design for ammonia generation use. The technical objectives laid out in Phase I will set the stage for a practical demonstration in Phase II. If this demonstration is achieved, future products can be envisioned and developed. Since electrolyzer technology is highly scalable, products could support a range of distributed applications, and could be designed on scale to distribute ammonia locally to farms or industrially. In addition, the catalyst developed in this project will enable a transformative approach to manufacturing ammonia using less energy and allowing the use of renewable energy sources. In contrast to the incumbent process, this electrically driven process eliminates the need for high temperature and pressure as well as hydrogen gas, using water as the source of protons instead of fossil fuels. Therefore, the process is able to achieve optimal efficiency soon after start-up, and is compatible with intermittent operation. This feature enables utilization (and monetization) of renewable electricity without the need for transmission capacity expansion. This approach has the potential to provide frequency regulation services to grid operators by providing a fast response load. To the extent that renewable electricity is utilized to drive the process, CO2 emissions will be eliminated from the production step, and further reduction of emissions will be realized through the reduced need for ammonia transport. In the Plains and Upper Midwest, excess wind production capacity, transmission limitations, and high regional demand for N-fertilizers combine to create excellent economic drivers for this technology. Key Words: Electrochemical ammonia generation, alkaline exchange membranes, electrolysis, protein engineering, nitrogenase, nanocatalysts


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SMALL BUSINESS 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: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 1.00M | Year: 2016

A major challenge in successful development of unitized regenerative fuel cells (URFC’s) 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 non- noble electrolyzer catalysts developed at Rutgers, and Proton’s expertise in AEM electrolyzers, regenerative fuel cells, stack development and integration. The advantages of alkaline URFC’s 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 Proton’s 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-polymer- electrode 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.


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.

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