|2001 R&D 100 Award Winner!
Michael Krumpelt of Argonne's Chemical Technology Division displays the new catalyst he and his colleagues developed. It could help bring ultra-efficient, environmentally friendly electric cars to the marketplace. The catalyst has been named one of the top 100 technological innovations of the preceding year by R&D 100 Magazine in its R&D 100 Awards. Argonne National Laboratory photo by George Joch.
Argonne, Süd-Chemie Sign Agreement to Accelerate Fuel Cell Development
An ultra-efficient, environmentally friendly electric car is now looking a lot more real, thanks to the Chemical Technology Division at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.
As a result of their work, Argonne and Süd-Chemie, Inc. (formerly United Catalysts Inc.) have signed a licensing agreement under which Süd-Chemie Inc. will manufacture and distribute a partial oxidation catalyst developed and patented by Argonne. The catalyst forms the heart of a component that will allow fuel-cell-powered cars to run on conventional fuel.
The Argonne team, led by Michael Krumpelt and Shabbir Ahmed, developed this catalyst for use in the fuel processor of an automotive fuel cell system. It efficiently converts a wide variety of hydrocarbon fuels, including methanol, natural gas and gasoline, into a hydrogen-rich gas. In addition to this fuel flexibility, the novel catalyst has demonstrated excellent resistance to sulfur in the fuel, a property essential for reliable, long-term operation of the processor.
The new catalyst is a result of a long-term focus in Argonne's Chemical Technology Division. In the late 1980s, the division began exploring the catalytic conversion ("reforming") of liquid fuel to hydrogen inside a fuel cell system. Industry judged this work to be too risky because of the enormous challenge of finding the right catalyst. Diligent efforts by the Chemical Technology Division team, however, eventually uncovered a class of new materials that support the partial oxidation chemistry for gasoline and other liquid fuels. (Partial oxidation is the primary reaction by which the hydrocarbon fuel is converted into hydrogen.
By mid-1999 they had developed an engineering-scale processor with this catalytic material that produces hydrogen from commercial gasoline and natural gas. This device produces about one-fifth the amount of hydrogen needed for a conventional car — a major step toward the realization of commercially available, fuel-cell-powered automobiles.
The partial oxidation catalyst also makes use of the fuel processor more attractive for other fuel cell applications, such as power for residential buildings and remote locations. Depending upon the commercial success of fuel cells, the worldwide market for such a catalyst could be as high as a half billion dollars per year within 10 years.
Argonne's licensing partnership with Süd-Chemie Inc. is the most recent of more than 600 partnering arrangements over the past 10 years. These licensing agreements are one way Argonne is working with industry to leverage government research to strengthen the nation's technology base. The agreement is also expected to open the door to further cooperative research efforts, leading to the possible development of the next generation of fuel processor catalysts.
The catalyst invented by the Argonne researchers was made possible by support from the Department of Energy's Office of Advanced Automotive Technologies program to overcome the technical barriers to fuel-cell-powered vehicles.
Süd-Chemie Inc. has been the leading developer and manufacturer of catalysts for the production of hydrogen from hydrocarbons for more than 50 years. From the inception of the fuel cell industry, Süd-Chemie has been a major supplier of catalysts used in the critical fuel cell processor.
Source. Argonne National Laboratory Press Release, November 28, 2000
Argonne's research was funded by the Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office o. Transportation Technologies, Office of Advanced Automotive Technologies.
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