HyperSolar, Inc. (HYSR), the developer of a breakthrough technology to produce renewable hydrogen using sunlight and any source of water, today announced that it has jointly filed a patent application with the University of California, Santa Barbara (“UCSB”) for the “protection and stability of electroactive units used for production of fuels and chemicals.” This invention could dramatically reduce the cost of fuel cells, an important source clean energy.
“A big hurdle in our solar to hydrogen conversion process is the stabilization of the electrodes against photocorrosion,” said Tim Young, CEO of HyperSolar. “We recently developed an efficient and low cost protective polymer coating that allows for good electrical conductivity as well as preventing photocorrosion. This was a significant achievement for solar to hydrogen production. However, our continued research has revealed that this coating may offer broad benefits in many electrocatalysis applications, such as fuel cells. ”
Fuel cells combine chemical energy, such as hydrogen, with an oxidant such as oxygen (air) to produce electrical energy, through the use of metal electrodes. Because of the corrosive aspect of the chemical reactions involved, almost all conventional fuel cells use electrodes made from platinum and other durable, but costly materials.
In fact, platinum electrodes are the most costly component in fuel cells, especially fuel cells used to power vehicles. For example, the current production cost of the Honda FCX hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is estimated to be $120,000, and the planned Toyota vehicle is expected to retail at $138,000. While automotive use of fuel cells is still experimental, industrial and residential use of fuel cells for electricity generation is a fast growing market. Research firms project that the fuel cell market will reach $785 million in 2012, with an estimated compounded annual growth rate of 16.6% from 2010 to 2014. HyperSolar is hopeful that its proprietary coating can be used to protect less expensive metals to replace platinum electrodes and lower the cost of fuel cells in the current market and the emerging automotive market.
“This was an unexpected but very promising discovery,” Young added. “While hydrogen production is our primary technology, fuel cells are a very important part of the application supply chain. By simultaneously reducing the cost of solar powered hydrogen production and fuel cells, we can move several steps closer to the reality of a hydrogen economy. If further development proves successful, we hope to aggressively target the immediate and existing fuel cell market with our coating technology to reduce the cost of fuel cells. As fuel cells become more affordable, we believe the demand for our renewable hydrogen technology will increase correspondingly.”
The patent application also covers other applications of the coating such as solar cells, organic solar cells, batteries and antistatic devices.