bus
County of Hawaiʻi bus fitted with new patented invention for gas cell.

An invention that enhances the longevity and efficiency of gas cells has been awarded a U.S. patent. Researchers from the Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa developed a “smart” system known as an Environmental Sensor Array that senses and reacts to altering air high quality in actual time.

Renewable vitality has grown to nearly one-fifth of the electrical energy produced within the U.S.—rising vitality safety, conserving pure sources and lowering carbon emissions. Fuel cells produce vitality for transportation and different functions by combining hydrogen and oxygen, producing exhaust that’s nothing greater than water.

To provide gas cells, hydrogen is often sourced from a excessive strain, onboard tank and oxygen is sourced from the ambient air. Although it’s attainable to guarantee the purity of the hydrogen, air contaminants inside the environmentally-sourced air may be toxic to the gas cell and trigger efficiency degradation to the purpose of gas cell failure.

two man headshots
From left: Mitch Ewan and Scott Higgins.

The new system at HNEI in UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), developed by Mitch Ewan and Scott Higgins, could be the answer.

“This device will significantly lower the operational and maintenance costs of operating fuel cell electric vehicles, prevent breakdowns and lower the cost barriers to replacing internal combustion vehicles,” stated Higgins. “In addition, this device will allow fuel cells to operate reliably in environments they previously could not.”

This effort is an instance of UH Mānoa’s objectives of Building a Sustainable and Resilient Campus Environment: Within the Global Sustainability and Climate Resilience Movement (PDF) and Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), two of 4 objectives recognized within the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), up to date in December 2020.

Identifying a possibility

Environmental air high quality varies primarily based on location and may be extremely contaminated with atmospheric particulates or toxic gases from pure or industrial sources, relying on the world of operation.

“Air quality is particularly problematic for military vehicles in a battlefield environment with significant levels of air contaminants that could cause operating fuel cell electric vehicles to stop working,” stated Ewan. “Over the past 25 years, the PEM fuel cell industry has addressed this contamination problem by applying increasingly complex and costly air filtration technologies to the air inlet of fuel cells.”

Innovating an answer

air filtration system
HNEI air filtration take a look at mattress. (Photo credit score: HNEI)

Ewan and Higgins started work on their new invention in 2012 after realizing that though there was a major emphasis on hydrogen purity, little consideration was given to air provide purity and how one can handle it in actual time.

As they developed and examined their system design, in addition they developed the software program management system with the intention to make the system “smart,” together with real-time suggestions on the well being of the air filtration system. The software program can reply to altering air contaminant situations by adjusting operation of the gas cell electrical automobile together with calling for shutdown of the gas cell when air contaminants are above damaging ranges. When the gas cell is working in an setting with low ranges of air contamination the place the onboard air filter is able to purifying the air to protected ranges, the system continues to observe its efficiency and calculates how a lot helpful life stays within the filter. Laboratory scale capabilities have been developed at HNEI to permit simulation of environmental air high quality and efficiency testing of the sensor array and filtration media, thus permitting predictive filtration efficiency modeling and optimized operation of gas cell efficiency for any location across the globe.

Ewan and Higgins’s patented expertise is at present in use in two Fuel Cell-Electric Buses being deployed within the County of Hawaiʻi public transportation bus fleet. This expertise will also be used on any stationary and cellular gas cell energy system. Their work is supported by funding from the Office of Naval Research.

For more information, see SOEST’s website.

–By Marcie Grabowski



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