Membrane-Free Electrochemical Devices

This technology seeks to enable significant cost reductions, enhanced durability, and increased efficiency and reaction rates for both common and specialized electrochemical devices, such as flow batteries, fuel cells, electrolyzers, and other types of chemical reactors. This is made possible by eliminating the need for a membrane or separator material to act as the electronic insulator between the anode and cathode.

Critical need for this technology

 

Many existing electrochemical systems utilize an ion exchange membrane (or porous separator). These materials are often costly, delicate, and only operate at low temperatures and pressures. The prohibitive expense of designing, developing, and producing new electrochemical devices currently limits their deployment. By eliminating the membrane, electrochemical systems can thus become more cost effective, efficient, and durable.

The large-scale implementation of this technology will create new economic opportunities, through lower maintenance and up-front capital costs. If applied to energy production and conversion, this will also enhance national energy security by reducing dependence on foreign energy sources and technologies.

Supplemental needs for this technology

  • Membranes are often the “weak link” in many electrochemical devices due to poor mechanical and/or chemical stability, especially as temperatures increase. Replacing or augmenting the membranes allows for cost savings and enhanced system performance to be realized in a variety of areas. For example, temperatures outside of operating conditions for a traditional polymer membrane can now be enabled with Advanced Ionics™ technology. Doing so can provide enhanced reaction kinetics and heat rejection capabilities which are critical parameters for many industrial chemical processes.
  • If deployed in large numbers in stationary fuel cell applications, this technology could increase national energy efficiency by accelerating the US Department of Energy’s goal of providing 20 percent of US energy from distributed combined head and power (CHP) to save 5.3 quadrillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) per year.

Competition

  • Common Commercial Materials: polybenzimidazole, perfluorosulfonic acid, hydrocarbons, electrolyte+separators in general, etc

Potential markets

Membrane replacement or augmentation in devices that:

  • produce hydrogen for ammonia, fuel cells, and industrial hydrogenation;
  • synthesize chemicals (i.e. halogens, alcohols, acids, bases, etc.) via redox processes;
  • store energy in flow batteries for load leveling, demand response, and frequency regulation; and
  • produce energy using fuel cells in transportation systems, stationary energy sources, portable devices, and military applications.

Value proposition: This technology would lower the cost of electrochemical devices, such as fuel cells, so that they provide lower energy costs than current combustion engines. It would also lower the cost of flow batteries so that they are competitive with lead acid batteries, allowing for a  more environmentally friendly alternative.

Team Overview

Founder
Chad Mason
Master’s in engineering technology from Arizona State University and a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from North Dakota State University. He has worked on developing new electrochemical technologies in Finland, Singapore, and most recently at General Motors in Detroit.

Background Resources

Fact sheet: Membrane-free electrochemistry enables lower cost systems

 Technology Profile

  • Total Amount Raised: $550,000
  • Status: R&D
  • Year Founded: 2017
  • Primary Industry: Energy & Manufacturing
  • Category: Batteries, fuel cells, electrolysis, chemical conversion/production, etc.
  • Estimated annual revenue: NA
  • Employs: NA
  • Social Challenge: Energy & Manufacturing
  • R&D commercial collaborator: NA

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