(PRWEB) April 05, 2011
Twenty years ago, NASA awarded a research contract to develop equipment that could address several critical issues limiting the testing and development of fuel cells utilizing renewable energy sources such as hydrogen. Over the subsequent two decades, this initial award has led to the issuing of several United States Patents and the commercial success of the fully automated fuel cell test systems sold by TesSol, Inc., under the Fideris brand name. Recognized by NASA as an enabling technology, the product was highlighted in NASA’s Spinoff 2003 publication. NASA has recently revisited the technology in their Spinoff 2010 publication and found that not only is the Fideris technology still critical to the fuel cell testing industry, it has also become the cornerstone of a product line that now includes nearly all aspects of physical process control and automation. This success story of technology originally developed under contract to NASA, then patented and commercialized with private funds, manufactured in the United States, and sold around the world, is a prime example of NASA tagline “Value for NASA, Benefits for the Nation.”
“In the early 1990s there were a few commercially available fuel cell test stations, but most fuel cell researchers built their own test equipment,” states Dr. Kelly Andrews, TesSol’s president. “The state-of-the-art equipment at the time only provided manual operation, primitive safety systems, and less than repeatable testing conditions. Possibly most significant was the inability of the test stand to properly manage the amount of hydrogen being delivered to the fuel cell in proper response to the amount of power being delivered. In the end, even after many hours of testing, the researcher only had a rough estimate of how effectively the hydrogen was being utilized by the fuel cell. A key innovation was the utilization of instrumentation to measure the amount of current being delivered by the fuel cell, calculate the amount of hydrogen and air theoretically required for the fuel cell operation, and then control the reactant delivery at the appropriate rate. With our product line, for the first time the user was able to utilize stoichiometric control of the reactants in real time rather than simply setting their flow to overly large values, which was standard procedure at the time.” Andrews continues, “The implementation of stoichiometric control provided a fantastic capability that was not then readily available to the fuel cell industry.”
Following their original 1995 United States Patent (5,512,831), two critical follow-up technologies included the development and application of ultra-low impedance electronic loads for testing large active area fuel cells at high currents without a boost power supply (US Patent 6,324,042), and the ability to provide real-time flash evaporation for the humidification of fuel cells (US patent 6,383, 671). Dr. Andrews summarizes, “Twenty years of innovation… The original invention was relatively easy, the commercialization was difficult, but continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the competition remains a challenge-- a challenge that we continue to meet and exceed through relentless development and the introduction of new products and features.
About NASA Spinoff:
When spinoff products began to emerge from space technologies, NASA considered the possibility of an annual report to present at congressional budget hearings. The result was a black and white “Technology Utilization Program Report,” published in 1973, followed by another one in 1974. The technologies in these reports created interest in the technology transfer concept, its successes, and its use as a public awareness tool. The reports generated such keen interest by the public that NASA decided to make them into an attractive publication. Thus, the first four-color edition of Spinoff was published in 1976. Each year since, a new issue has highlighted the transfer of NASA technology to the private sector. The Agency distributes copies to politicians, economic decision makers, company CEOs, academics, professionals in technology transfer, the news media, and the general public.
NASA’s Spinoff publication accomplishes several goals. First, it is a convincing justification for the continued expenditure of NASA funds. It serves as a tool to educate the media and the general public by informing them about the benefits and dispelling the myth of wasted taxpayer dollars. It reinforces interest in space exploration. It demonstrates the possibility to apply aerospace technology in different environments. It highlights the ingenuity of American inventors, entrepreneurs, and application engineers, and the willingness of a government agency to assist them. And finally, it continues to ensure global competitiveness and technological leadership by the United States.
NASA Spinoff homepage: http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/
The entire NASA Spinoff 2010 article is available at: http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2010/ip_6.html
Single slide summary at: http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2010/Slides/IP/TesSol.pdf.
The original 2003 NASA article is available at: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20030099692_2003114634.pdf
About the Fideris Brand:
The Fideris Brand testing equipment (http://www.fideris.com) is manufactured by TesSol, Inc., and represents innovative solutions for research, quality control, and production testing in the areas of fuel cells, catalysts, sensors, materials, and many other diverse applications. Offered under the Lynntech name of its original parent company through the 1990s, and rebranded as Fideris in 2004, this product line has introduced many of the most significant features to the electrochemical testing industry including: computer-controlled fully automated test stations, ultra-low impedance electronic loads, real-time flash evaporation humidifiers, modular sub-systems, graphical user interface, full automation through scripting, all-digital communication, remote monitoring and control, and dozens of other testing features and capabilities which simplify and automate device testing as well as increase data quality, testing performance, and overall safety.
1315 SE Grace Ave
Battle Ground, WA, 98604 USA
# # #