Redox, UMD, Microsoft, Trans-Tech to Develop Transformational Natural Gas Fuel
Cells Through $5 Million in ARPA-E Funding
COLLEGE PARK, Md., June 23, 2014
COLLEGE PARK, Md., June 23, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Redox Power
Systems LLC, the University of Maryland, Microsoft Corporation and Trans-Tech
Inc. (a subsidiary of Skyworks Solutions Inc.) are teaming to develop
transformational fuel cells through a $5 million cooperative agreement funded
by the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E)Reliable
Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems (REBELS) program, company and
university officials jointly announce today.
The goal of the project is to further advance Redox's high-performance fuel
cells and drive them to market-readiness for a broad range of applications,
including low-cost distributed power generation and heating and cooling for
homes, and for Microsoft—which is providing additional support for the
These new markets complement Redox's existing 25 kW product, known as "The
Cube," which is designed for larger commercial structures and can comfortably
power a gas station, moderately sized grocery store or small shopping plaza.
The technological advances resulting from this project will also open the door
for additional applications such as transportation.
"This project will finally make fuel cells an affordable technology," said
Professor Eric Wachsman, Director of the University of Maryland Energy
Research Center(UMERC)in theA. James Clark School of Engineering, who is
also a Redox co-founder. "All of the elements we are going to work on—lower
temperature, higher power density, faster startup time and load
following—these will make fuel cells easier to sell by bringing their cost
down even further. It accelerates everything."
Fuel cells—or devices that convert the chemical energy of a fuel source into
electrical energy—are optimal for distributed power generation systems, which
generate power close to where it is used, according to ARPA-E. Distributed
generation systems offer an alternative to the large, centralized power
generation facilities or power plants that are currently commonplace.
Those systems, powered by natural gas (or a wide variety of alternative fuel
sources, including liquid fuels such as gasoline and diesel) through Redox's
solid oxide fuel cells, could become a reality if this project is successful.
Led by Fulton, Md.-based Redox, the three-year ARPA-E agreement has UMD
partnering with the company to improve its solid oxide fuel cells by the
following minimum requirements:
oReduce the operating temperatures of their record high-power-density fuel
cells from an already industry-leading 650 degrees Celsius to the 300-500
oEnable a start-up time of less than ten minutes; and
oRespond to electrical load changes, from 10-90 percent power in less than
"This will be a major advancement in our fuel cell technology," said Bryan
Blackburn, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Redox. "It will not be
incremental. We are working on every aspect of the cell—the anode, the
cathode, the electrolyte. The materials will be different. Every single aspect
will synergistically come together to form our highest performing, lowest-cost
Trans-Tech Inc., based in Adamstown, Md., will work with Redox and UMD to ramp
up the commercial production of new cell materials. They will also work with
Redox to manufacture the improved fuel cells, establishing ways to reduce
production costs. By bringing a large manufacturer like Trans-Tech into the
development process early on and working with fuel cells produced using
industrial processes, the required time-to-market for new generations of
enhanced cells will decrease.
Redox will also redesign its fuel cell stacks to achieve ARPA-E performance
targets and reduce costs even further, after which they go to Microsoft for
integration and independent live testing in the company's server racks.
"Our vision is to bring the power plant directly into the datacenter by
integrating fuel cell stacks into every server cabinet, effectively
eliminating energy loss that otherwise occurs in the energy supply chain and
doubling the efficiency of traditional datacenters," said Sean James, Senior
Research Program Manager for Microsoft Global Foundation Services. "We expect
to effectively double our efficiency, from fuel to load, while cutting out
many points of failure.The resulting system could be significantly less
expensive than traditional datacenter designs. Overall, we believe the
advancements being made in fuel cells will someday change the game in terms of
how energy is delivered and managed."
Microsoft is also a powerful buyer.
"In this case the partner is also the potential customer," explained
Blackburn. "If Microsoft adopts these fuel cell systems at a large scale, they
could provide just the right initial market and critical mass to drive the
cost of our fuel cells down even further."
The Redox-led project is one of 13 funded by the REBELS program, which ARPA-E
announced on June 19, 2014, worth a total of $33 million.
"These 13 REBELS projects are an excellent example of how ARPA-E is developing
innovative technology options to transform and modernize America's evolving
electric grid," said ARPA-E Acting Director Dr. Cheryl Martin. "Distributed
generation technologies like these could fundamentally change the way America
generates and stores energy."
Redox, initially co-founded by Wachsman and Blackburn after the former spent
25 years developing industry-leading solid oxide fuel cells, was a winner in
the 2012 University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition, run by the
Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech). After winning the
competition, the company entered Mtech's VentureAccelerator Program, which
helps University of Maryland inventors get their research out of laboratories
and into industry by creating successful companies.
Three months later, the company was reformed along with an outside investment
and management team and moved to Fulton, Md.
About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland is the state's flagship university and one of the
nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research,
entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 37,000
students, 9,000 faculty and staff, and 250 academic programs. Its faculty
includes three Nobel laureates, two Pulitzer Prize winners, 49 members of the
national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a
$1.8 billion operating budget, secures $500 million annually in external
research funding and recently completed a $1 billion dollar fundraising
SOURCE University of Maryland
Contact: Eric Schurr, (301) 405-3889, email@example.com
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