Several Firms Combine Forces To Advance Breakthroughs for Fuel Cells

July 20, 1999 by Jeff Shepard

Several firms, coming from different directions, are combining forces on projects aimed at coming up with breakthroughs in new technology to advance fuel-cell implementation. In separate projects, the firms are investigating fuel processors and hydrogen storage systems that will provide power for fuel cells in both stationary and transportation applications.Catalytica Advanced Technologies Inc. (Mountain View, CA) and McDermott Technology Inc. (MTI, Alliance, OH) received an award from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a compact catalytic fuel processor for use with fuel cells in transportation applications. The program calls for a compact, fully integrated system capable of processing multiple fuels into a hydrogen-rich gas suitable for powering PEM fuel cells. Over the next 30 months, the two firms plan to develop, test, demonstrate, and deliver the system. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $5.8 million, of which the DOE will contribute up to $3.8 million. Northwest Power Systems (NPS, Bend, OR) is under contract to Sandia National Laboratories to develop and test a new fuel processor that converts diesel into high-purity hydrogen. The hydrogen is fed to a proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell which then produces electricity. NPS developed the diesel fuel processor for use in fuel-cell systems that can generate electricity of ruse in remote villages in Alaska. "Our longer term objective is to complete all field testing of a fully integrated fuel cell system for residential application in rural Alaska in the year 2000," said a Northwest Power spokesman. Shell Hydrogen (Amsterdam) and Energy Conversion Devices (ECD, Troy, MI) signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the development and commercialization of ECD's proprietary solid hydride storage technology. Shell will provide the refueling and distribution expertise. ECD has made a long-term investment in the development of engineered materials that can be used to store hydrogen as a solid. These proprietary hydride materials safely store hydrogen that can be released for use as a fuel for conventional internal combustion engines, or as a clean source of onboard hydrogen for vehicles powered by electricity generated by onboard fuel cells.