Portable Battlefield Fuel Desulfurizer

Period of Performance: 11/28/2003 - 11/28/2005


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Mesoscopic Devices, LLC
510 Compton Street, Suite 106
Broomfield, CO 80020
Principal Investigator


In Phase I, Mesoscopic Devices designed and proved the technical feasibility of an advanced, portable fuel desulfurizer. Sulfur compounds in logistics fuels are a barrier to use of fuel cells since sulfur poisons the catalysts used in fuel cells and fuel processors. The proposed portable desulfurizer can treat fuel to fuel cell standards using a regenerable sulfur sorbent, utilizing sulfur sorbents many times more efficiently than typical fixed bed approaches. The Phase I results showed that sorbent materials can selectively remove sulfur compounds from hydrocarbon liquids and that these sorbents can be regenerated practically using a heated air stream. A mechanical device was also developed that can utilize regenerable sorbents to continuously desulfurize fuel and regenerate the sorbent material simultaneously. The combination of these two results translates into an estimated desulfurizer system size many times smaller than fixed-bed single-use systems for fuel cell systems with output powers ranging from about 100 W to more than 100 kW. In Phase II, we will demonstrate the application of the new desulfurizer for treating logistics fuels with long term system operation. Phase II will result in the delivery of a self-contained desulfurizer system for demonstration to military and commercial clients. The desulfurization system developed in this project will significantly reduce the cost and logistical burden of using sulfur-sensitive fuel cell technologies for battlefield power generation. The portable desulfurizer will allow cleanup of JP-8 in the field to fuel cell standards, eliminating the requirement for a pre-purified fuel cell fuel. Although initially designed to support multiple, low-power, portable generators, variants of this system could also be used as an integrated component of large power generators. Commercially, the highly compact device and low sorbent mass requirements will make the desulfurizer attractive for use in automotive and stationary fuel cell power applications. Spinoff benefits include portable military generators that are smaller, lighter, quieter and a factor of two more efficient than diesel generators.