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

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


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

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


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase II 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. In Phase 1, feasibility of operating a proton exchange membrane (PEM)-based device as a high efficiency electrochemical compressor/purifier was demonstrated at up to 3 A/cm2. In Phase 2, refinement of the microporous plate will be performed for optimal water distribution, which will enable more uniform fluid distribution and high current densities. Poison-tolerant catalysts will also be developed to enable a broader range of applications. The objectives of this phase also include additional test stand modifications to enable a broader range of test conditions, demonstration of gas purity through analysis to determine the separation efficiency, and development of system schematics and product requirements. 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 200 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.