Millennium Cell, a leading developer of hydrogen battery technology, has been awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) Grant by the National Science Foundation ("NSF") to develop a new hydrogen storage technology based on solid fuel blends that include borohydrides.
The NSF SBIR grant was awarded following competitive merit-based reviews by a panel of experts from academia, industry and government labs. The work performed under this six-month program will build upon Millenium Cell’s patent-pending technology and could result in a Phase II award, which would be a two-year effort.
The Company will subcontract a portion of the work to Professor Michael A. Matthews’ research group at the University of South Carolina. Professor Matthews is an expert in the area of chemical kinetics for hydrogen generation reactions.
Millenium Cell has already disclosed plans to deliver its third-generation portable hydrogen storage technology based on the hydrolysis of solid sodium borohydride to its licensees for evaluation by the end of 2006. The approach funded by the NSF SBIR could lead to a subsequent-generation hydrogen storage technology.
In 2005, Millennium Cell was awarded a five-year, $3 million contract from the DOE to further its work with sodium borohydride-based hydrogen generation and storage. (Earlier post.)
Sodium borohydride (short for sodium tetrahydridoborate: NaBH4) is a chemical compound with high hydrogen content. When NaBH4 is suspended in an aqueous solution and then passed over a catalyst, the reaction produces hydrogen, along with a benign byproduct—sodium metaborate—that can be recycled back into sodium borohydride.
NaBH4 + 2H2O → 4H2 + NaBO2 + heat
One of the disadvantages to sodium borohydride as a hydrogen source is the cost and availability of the compound.
Earlier in May, Millenium Cell received a notice of allowance from the patent office on a new method to reduce the cost to produce metallic sodium, a main raw material and cost driver in the production of sodium borohydride.
The new sodium production process could require 60%–75% less electricity than used today in sodium production, saving cost and preserving energy.
This patent is jointly owned by Millennium Cell and Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. of Allentown, PA, a worldwide leader in hydrogen production and delivery. The companies are offering licenses under the allowed patent to the chemical industry. Approximately 35% of the sodium metal made today is used in the production of sodium borohydride.
This new technology has the potential to reduce the variable cost of sodium borohydride by 25–50%. Lowering the cost of sodium borohydride will help increase the penetration of our hydrogen battery technology into new applications and will strengthen our existing cost advantage over other traditional battery chemistries.—Adam P. Briggs, Millennium Cell President
Although it initially included transportation as a target market, Millenium Cell is now focusing on developing its hydrogen battery technology (a fuel cell combined with its chemical hydride storage unit) for application in portable devices in the consumer, industrial, military and medical markets.