Startup Highlight: Superprotonics

With claims of superior, economically competitive, and environmentally friendly fuel cells, Superprotonic hopes to revolutionize the automotive, small stationary/residential, and portable electronics markets. Consumers of these products are expected to spend over 10 billion dollars a year for their energy needs by 2012.

The current fuel cell technology pursued by the automotive industry is based on the polymer electrolyte membranes (PEMFCs) comprised of sulfonated polymers (i.e., Nafion). This technology is limited by the operational temperatures of 70-100 C (158-212 F) while temperatures in automotive applications reach 150-300 C (302-572 F). To overcome this limitation, auxiliary systems are required, adding complications and expenses, often making the PEMFC system cost-prohibitive.

The novel fuel cell developed by Superprotonic (SAFC) is based on solid acids composed of cesium hydrogen sulfate. The operational temperatures of SAFC is 100-300 C (212-572F), making it more suitable for automotive applications, while the larger dynamic range allows more divers applications such as stationary and portable electronics.

The appeal of the Superprotonic’s fuel cell is also based on the elimination of precious metal catalysts (the most expensive component of other fuel cell technologies), impermeability to gasses (zero loss from the system), and higher efficiency of proton transfer within the system.

For these reasons and a variety of other cost-saving features of their technology, Superprotonic estimates that energy produced by their fuel cells will be cost competitive with the internal combustion engine ($35-50/kW; California Energy Commission, October 2001), while lowering long-term maintenance costs.

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