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Proton Receives $2.3 Million for Follow-On Electrolysis Research Project

The University of Nevada Las Vegas Research Foundation (UNLVRF) has awarded Proton Energy Systems, Inc., a subsidiary of Distributed Energy Systems Corp., a $2.3-million contract for follow-on research into advanced proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis.

The study is funded by a grant to UNLVRF from the US Department of Energy. The University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Center for Energy Research (CER) will also collaborate on this project.

The new research grant will allow Proton to focus on technology improvements such as increased system and cell stack efficiency, reduced costs through scale-up and manufacturability assessments, and improving the technology to directly interface renewable electricity sources to the PEM electrolyzer. Proton is a leading provider of on-site hydrogen generation systems and other advanced energy storage technologies.

We believe this latest award will result in further significant advancements in our PEM electrolysis technology, allowing us to focus our research and development on key operational product capabilities.

—Robert Friedland, Proton Senior Vice President and head of the hydrogen technology group

Proton and UNLVRF began collaborating in 2003 to develop advanced hydrogen fueling technologies. A fueling station under design is expected to incorporate a high-capacity electrolyzer, capable of generating up to 12 kilograms per day of hydrogen—enough to fuel at least two fuel-cell light duty vehicles.

UNLVRF is also leading a research consortium including Altair Nanotechnologies and Hydrogen Solar to further the development of solar hydrogen generation cells. (Earlier post.)

In October, Proton Energy was selected to install a hydrogen-fueling system in the New York City metropolitan area—the city’s first such—as prime contractor to Shell Hydrogen.(Earlier post.)



I'd love to see some efficiency numbers for this stuff. Does the PEM require platinum?

"A fueling station under design is expected to incorporate a high-capacity electrolyzer, capable of generating up to 12 kilograms per day of hydrogen—enough to fuel at least two fuel-cell light duty vehicles."

That's high capacity?

Lou Grinzo

The number I've always seen for energy input to electrolyze water is 39.4kWh/kg H2, with the efficiency of various technologies rated in terms of how close they can come to this number. Is this an absolute floor for producing H2 via electrolysis, or do we need to use something entirely different, like algae, to produce H2 more efficiently?

This 39.4 number is why I keep stressing how much more efficient EV's are than FCV's--for that 39.4 kWh you can drive a Civic-size EV 160 to 200 miles (assuming 4 to 5 miles/kWh), or drive a FCV for 70 miles (using the 70 miles/kg H2 number Honda quotes for the next-gen FCX).



I agree. Until the electrolysis number comes down the algae bio-reactor H2, seems a lot more efficient (H2 plus byproducts.) Although there was some movement on newer low cost electrolyzers recently - don't recall they claimed greater efficiencies - just lower costs.


SOFC and MCFC. They can work with syngas from biomass.


Unless you want to carry the biomass and gasifier aboard the vehicle (like Mother Earth News' wood-gas truck) that's not terribly relevant.


No, but if you carry compressed SNG and reform on vehicle, you get CO and H2.
You could reform SNG or biomethanol. An SOFC would use the CO and H2 as fuel and result in neutral CO2 and H20 out the tailpipe. Running low on fuel, pull into a fuel station and fill up with SNG or methanol and you are back on the road.


SOFC's can work directly on methane or alcohols, no reformer needed.


All the better. The Franklin copper ceria SOFCs are more immune to impurities and can run on even more fuels. You could conceivably use the ceria plasma reformer to POX biodiesel to CO and H2. If someone had a fuel cell car that you could just fill up with diesel, I think that would be popular.

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