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Nov 6, 2017 | By Troy Carter

Defense Department technology, available for product development, makes hydrogen fuel portable

TechLink facilitating agreements with small businesses for access to novel material, evaluation of DoD data

News Article Image of Defense Department technology, available for product development, makes hydrogen fuel portable
Army researcher Anthony J. Roberts adds one gram of aluminum nano powder to urine to release hydrogen from a chemical reaction. (David McNally/Army)

Clean, efficient, and portable energy – that’s what everyone wants, though few can deliver.

But TechLink is now offering to industry partners the opportunity to develop two patented hydrogen feedstock technologies discovered by defense laboratories that answers the call with aluminum and the most abundant resource on the planet: water.

Aluminum is normally non-reactive to water due to its thin oxide surface layer. But powdered aluminum alloys developed by Air Force and Army researchers rapidly and efficiently convert into hydrogen when exposed to water.

This new material sidesteps a practical problem associated with hydrogen fuel cells, that is, the transportation and storage of pressurized flammable gas. Instead, the hydrogen is created from any water source (even urine works), mixed on-site with the powdered aluminum for on-demand energy production.

“The water is two hydrogens and one oxygen, great place to store it. It’s high density, it has over 1,000 liters of hydrogen available per liter of water,” said Christopher Bunker, a senior research chemist at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Air Force Tech Op: Generating hydrogen from aluminum nanoparticles and water

Aluminum’s energy potential was also recognized by the Army Research Laboratory in Maryland, where outstanding results were also observed.

“We have calculated that one kilogram of aluminum powder can produce 220 kilowatts of power in just three minutes,” said Dr. Anit Giri, an Army physicist who was part of the discovery.

Hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity quietly, efficiently, and without pollution. According to a Department of Energy’s website, fuel cells are “more energy-efficient than combustion engines and the hydrogen used to power them can come from a variety of sources.”

Army Tech Op: Portable feedstock for generating hydrogen

TechLink’s Dan Swanson and Brian Metzger are facilitating agreements with small businesses for the review of data and access to material samples. Industry partners can also receive no-cost patent licensing assistance from TechLink.

“After talking with the research and tech transfer teams at the Air Force and the Army we believe there’s several commercial uses for the technology,” said Brian Metzger, senior technology manager at TechLink. “We’re ready to start helping businesses get access so they can start the evaluation process.”

Up next: How to license technology from defense laboratories