Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory have recently invented a highly sensitive, graphene-based sulfur detector that can quickly differentiate between good and bad fuel cells. The patented technology is available via patent license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.
Fuel cells are becoming an attractive option for the military and commercial applications due to their low noise and heat signatures, lighter weight, and long lifetime. Possible applications include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), portable power in the field, silent camp and silent watch operations, as well as onboard submarines and ships.
One challenge is that sulfur must be stripped from the fuel because it will degrade the anode and cathode of the fuel cell.
Navy researchers have developed a detector out of graphene decorated with metal oxides that can detect sulfur contaminants in fuels at a parts-per-billion level. While the standard method can only measure sulfur after the fuel has been burned, the new invention provides an in-line detection technology to prevent degradation and poor performance. The detector provides a reading in only 30 seconds for gas-phase sensing and 3 minutes for liquid-phase sensing.
Potential applications for these graphene-metal oxide hybrid sensors include fuel cell power generation assets, portable fuel sensors for identifying contaminated fuel quickly, for use in sulfur-sensitive applications, in portable tools for the oil and gas industry, as fuel cell lab test equipment, and use in automotive fuel cell vehicles.
- Provides a chemiresistor sensor for the in-line detection of ppm levels of sulfur contaminates in fuels that are still intact, rather than analyzing fuel after it has been burned
- Has a fast sensor response time: 30 seconds for the gas-phase sensors and 3 minutes for liquid sensing
- Device selectivity towards thiophene, octanethiol, and benzenthiophene in synthetic S8 fuel mixtures, and device reactivity towards JP8 aviation fuel containing 20 and 600 ppm of sulfur in both gas and liquid phases
- Businesses can commercialize the technology by licensing U.S. Patent Application 20190107524 from the Navy
- License fees paid to the Navy are negotiable
- Businesses that license the technology may have the opportunity to pursue collaborative research with the inventors
- Testing data may be available to companies evaluating the technology
- TechLink guides businesses through evaluation and licensing; services provided at no cost