SBIR Phase I: Design of a Novel Unitized Regenerative Fuel Cell System Using Advanced Materials for Efficiency Optimization

Period of Performance: 01/01/2012 - 12/31/2012

$150K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Proton Energy Systems
10 Technology Drive Array
Wallingford, CT 06492
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Abstract

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project addresses global energy concerns by enabling reduced dependence on energy derived from fossil fuels. A major limitation of many renewable energy sources is the intermittent nature of the source, such as solar or wind. As the percentage of energy applied to the grid from these sources grows, energy storage systems must be developed to store energy during peak generation periods, and provide power during lower generation periods. Hydrogen-based regenerative fuel cells are an ideal candidate for these applications due to their high energy density, fast response times, and carbon-free footprint when the hydrogen is generated by electrolysis using the renewable power source. However, materials for the electrolysis and fuel cell stacks are still too expensive to make this solution cost effective. The goal of this project is to develop bifunctional electrodes for operation in both fuel cell and electrolysis mode, enabling a single stack to serve the function of both the electrolyzer and fuel cell and eliminating significant cost. The broader/commercial impacts of this research are applicable to consumer, industrial, and military customers. All of the United States armed services branches have identified energy storage as a critical need for assuring troop safety and operational energy security. Higher energy density for longer unmanned missions, reduction in fuel needs for forward operating bases, and reduced power signatures are key concerns to be addressed. The proposed energy storage system can provide power for military surveillance vehicles, forward operating bases, and consumer homes. Japan is already leading the effort in distributed energy generation and has deployed thousands of residential energy storage systems. However, most of the current systems are based on natural gas, which still relies on fossil fuel sources and contributes to the problem of increasing global carbon dioxide levels. Hydrogen-based systems enable a fully reversible chemical cycle of hydrogen and oxygen to water and back. Advances in these areas will find immediate commercial interest, and will address a specific capability that enables clean, sustainable energy solutions.