Here are some historical projects we have participated in, whether as a consultant or employee
FUEL CELL FREEZE-START
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles produce only water as a waste, which is great, except when that water freezes inside the fuel cell flowfields and catalyst layer, and blocks air and hydrogen flow. If air doesn’t get to the cathode catalyst that reduces performance and can generate hydrogen. But if hydrogen doesn’t get to the anode catalyst, the cell can be severely damaged by carbon corrosion.
I led a task force at Ballard Power Systems to enable startup of frozen stacks – a significant, multi-disciplinary effort of simulation, experimentation, testing and system integration with some very talented engineers and scientists. The project succeeded and cleared away one of the obstacles to a viable fuel cell automobile.
250 KW ENERGY STORAGE PLANT
Redox flow batteries are an innovative method of storing electricity in chemical form at extremely low cost. Cell stacks can be made out of cheap carbon and plastic, without the need for expensive catalysts or lithium. Energy is stored by changing the state of charge of large volumes of liquid electrolyte made from widely available industrial chemicals – and unlike a regular battery, capacity can be increased simply by adding more liquid.
I worked at EnerVault to advance the technology and develop a 250 kW / 1 MWh demonstration plant, integrating the cell stacks with the proprietary electrolyte, and managing the balance of plant design including inverter and power electronics; pumps; thermal regulation system; instrumentation and controls. I led the system engineering team and we designed the system from concept to detail, installed it at a solar farm in Turlock, CA, and then ran successful cycles to demonstrate the world’s highest power iron-chromium energy storage system. Our small team had to solve many problems along the way – thanks also to the partners and contractors who contributed key design and build efforts.
Click for a video of the unveiling ceremony which has some interesting drone footage. Attendees include DOE and CPUC representatives, and we were proud to host Dr. Larry Thaller, one of the fathers of the redox flow battery, and demonstrate a large-scale embodiment of his pioneering work.
INNOVATIVE BANKNOTE SENSOR
ATMs and other banknote handling machines need to accurately measure thickness at high speeds to ensure that banknotes are not folded, taped, or counterfeit. At the engineering consultancy 42 Technology I worked on a project to create a new type of sensor that used an innovative technology to produce high signal-to-noise thickness data.
The sensor proved capable of measuring all sorts of notes, from high-performance polymer notes with embedded metal threads, to the worst note of them all to handle: used, soft, dirty cotton-rich American one dollar bills.
This was a very interesting project because it started from initial client meetings, to a wide-ranging idea-generating workshop, and then rapidly iterating on the detailed design to improve accuracy and reliability, through to design for manufacture.
Click here for more information about 42 Technology and the project.
LAPTOP RANGE EXTENDER
Battery energy density hasn’t kept up with the increasing demands of our power-hungry devices. We have much longer laptop lifetimes now, but that’s mainly because of smarter software and lower-power chips. How do we achieve all-day operation?
At CMR Fuel Cells we worked on small systems powered by high-density methanol fuel. We successfully designed a 25W range extender that integrated with the battery pack in a clever way to enhance runtime without the safety and efficiency problems of generating AC power. Unfortunately, in the end the energy density wasn’t quite enough to make for a compelling product. It’s hard to beat simply having a second removable Li-ion battery.
Still, I was proud to work with a good team, and we worked hard and made innovative advances in a wide range of areas:
– recovering water vapor with a low-cost condenser
CMR still exists in the form of Amalyst LLC, focusing on innovative low-cost catalysts for electrolysis and fuel cells.
Review of new materials and test protocols for high-performance fuel cells
Review of research proposals (e.g. Department of Energy, Bonneville Power Administration) and peer review for scientific journals
Keynote speech at fuel cell conference
Project management for innovative fragrance dispenser design
Thermal modelling of batteries and fuel cells
Review and consulting on power system for remote, cold locations
Direct methanol powered go-kart “Direttissima” project.
CAD design e.g. for metal casting runner system
Flow battery picture from “Redox Flow Battery English” by Nick B, benboy00. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
F-Cell car picture from Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell; Oslo to Malmö by Mercedes-Benz F-Cell (CC BY-ND 2.0)