Regenerative Fuel Cells

Proton Energy Systems
Transformative Renewable Energy Storage Devices Based on Neutral Water Input
Graphic of Proton's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$4,598,620
Location: 
Wallingford, CT
Project Term: 
10/01/2012 to 03/31/2014
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Our national electric grid has limited ability to store excess energy, so electricity must constantly be over-generated to assure reliable supply. Though wind and solar power are promising clean alternatives to fossil fuels, their natural unpredictability and intermittency present major challenges to delivery of the consistent power that is necessary to operate today's grid. The U.S. needs technologies that can store renewable energy for future grid-use at any location. Flexible, large-scale storage would create a stronger and more robust electric grid by enabling renewables to contribute to reliable power generation.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Proton Energy Systems is developing an energy storage device that converts water to hydrogen fuel when excess electricity is available, and then uses hydrogen to generate electricity when energy is needed. The system includes an electrolyzer, which generates and separates hydrogen and oxygen for storage, and a fuel cell which converts the hydrogen and oxygen back to electricity. Traditional systems use acidic membranes, and require expensive materials including platinum and titanium for key parts of the system. In contrast, Proton Energy Systems' new technology will use an inexpensive alkaline membrane and will contain only inexpensive metals such as nickel and stainless steel. If successful, Proton Energy Systems' design will have similar performance to today's regenerative fuel cell systems at a fraction of the cost, and can be used to store electricity on the electric grid.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, Proton Energy Systems' alkaline membrane-based electrolyzers would provide more storage capacity for regenerative fuel cells with cheaper materials than today's technologies, enabling more stored energy on the electric grid.
Security: 
A more efficient and reliable grid would be more resilient to potential disruptions.
Environment: 
Electricity generation accounts for over 40% of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Enabling large-scale contributions of wind and solar power for our electricity generation would result in a substantial decrease in CO2 emissions.
Economy: 
Increases in the availability of wind and solar power would reduce fossil fuel demand, resulting in reduced fuel prices and more stable electricity rates.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. John Lemmon
Project Contact: 
Lee Jones
Partners
Treadstone Technologies, Inc
Los Alamos National Laboratory