Tetramer has been awarded a DOE Phase II SBIR (DE-FG01-11ER90203) grant to develop new high performance water vapor membranes which will improve fuel cell balance of plant efficiency and lower costs. This project targets improved efficiency and lower cost of proton exchange membrane fuel cells through the development of improved water vapor management. Fuel cells are highly efficient, non-polluting source of energy that can significantly decrease the US dependence on foreign oil while reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Further improvements in performance and lower cost are needed to greatly expand the already growing commercialization of this emerging new approach to energy. In the laboratory, Tetramer has invented new membranes that have demonstrated 30% higher performance and 50% lower cost than current water vapor membranes. A high degree of success was accomplished for this new technology during Phase I, which demonstrated higher performance, higher mechanical stability, and success with new molecular architecture syntheses. As is normal with applied research and development, further improvement routes to higher performance were discovered which will be implemented in Phase II. Phase II will involve long term testing confirmation of the early stage performance achieved in Phase I, implementation of the synthesis improvements discovered in Phase I, down selection of the best membrane materials, and development of a technology package for scale up. Greater participation of committed key commercialization partners will involve scale-up of the membrane synthesis, prototype testing, and focus on moving the commercialization process to privately funded Phase III.
Fuel cell applications provide clean energy sources for automobiles, buses, stationary power, forklifts, remote power generation, and military bases. Additional commercial applications have been identified which will increase the market size and lower the overall cost through economies of scale.