ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Army officials announced the exclusive licensing of a new technology designed to harvest hydrogen from an aluminum alloy powder and any fluid that contains water.
"This is on-demand hydrogen production," said Dr. Anit Giri, a materials scientist at the U.S. Army CCDC Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. "Utilizing hydrogen, you can generate power on-demand, which is very important for the Soldier."
Army researchers discovered a structurally-stable, aluminum-based nanogalvanic alloy powder in 2017, which reacts with water or any water-based liquid to produce on-demand hydrogen for power generation without a catalyst.
The laboratory filed for a patent and posted a Federal Register Notice in June 2018 inviting companies to submit ideas on how best to commercialize the technology.
"Based on ongoing interest generated by this notice, the Army is selecting the most appropriate partners and collaborators with an intent to build a manufacturing base," said Jason Craley, from the lab's Technology Transfer Office.
Although the 2018 notice had a set timeline for responding, Craley said the door is not closed on considering new licenses and partnerships for purposes not already covered by H2 Power. Interested parties may still contact the laboratory, he said.
"The initial notice generated a lot of interest," Giri said. "One company has already been given the exclusive license for a particular use, but several other companies are in negotiations."
The company that received the first rights is H2 Power, LLC of Chicago. According to the agreement, the license grants the right to use the patent in automotive and transportation power generation applications related to "2/3/4/6 wheeled vehicles, such as motorcycles, all sizes of cars, minivans, vans, SUV, pick-up trucks, panel trucks other light and medium trucks up to 26,000 pounds and any size bus."
H2 Power may also use the patent for power generation applications via "generators and micro-grid equipment that generates 15 kilowatts and above."
"Imagine a squad of future Soldiers on a long range patrol far from base with dead batteries and a desperate need to fire up their radio," said Dr. Kris Darling, a prominent materials scientist at CCDC ARL. "One of the Soldiers reaches for a metal tablet and drops it into a container and adds water or some fluid that contains water such as urine, immediately the tablet dissolves and hydrogen is released into a fuel cell, providing instant power for the radio."
The powder has many advantages, Darling said, such as:
• Energy and power source
• Stable alloy powder
• Environmentally friendly
• Scalable hydrogen production
• Easily transportable
• Feed stock for additive manufacturing
"This material is unique," Darling said. "It was discovered just a few years ago, so a manufacturing base doesn't exist. That's why we're going to work directly with the people licensing this technology -- so they can build the infrastructure and gain the manufacturing science and engineering to be able to rapidly scale this."
Having the manufacturing base is important, he said because it opens up the technology for commercial applications as well as DOD applications.
"It's important because the Army can benefit from this product being produced," Darling said.
Giri said he is already in close contact with H2 Power representatives.
"They are very excited about the potential applications," Giri said. "We're looking forward to working with them to make this technology available to the U.S. Army."
The CCDC Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. As the Army's corporate research laboratory, ARL discovers, innovates and transitions science and technology to ensure dominant strategic land power. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our Nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.