Renewable/Green Energy

H2 Gas Separation; Fuel Cells


The departments of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Chemical Engineering are the primary sources of renewable energy intellectual property including disclosures, patent applications, patents, and know-how/trade secrets. Other departments, notably Mechanical Engineering, are also contributors to this area. Strengths in regard to innovation with commercial potential include Hydrogen fuel cell technology (see Fuel Cell Center) and hydrogen separation.

Pending Patents

Van de Ven, Fluidic Variable Inertia Flywheel - This invention combines rotating kinetic and pneumatic energy storage into a single device to drastically increase the energy storage density over traditional hydraulic accumulators. Energy is stored in the device by either compressing a gas with the addition of hydraulic fluid or by applying a torque to the device. The two energy domains are coupled as the hydraulic fluid changes the moment of inertia of the device. Due to the pressure gradient created by the centripetal acceleration of the hydraulic fluid, the hydraulic system pressure can be directly controlled independently of the quantity of energy stored. This feature allows the hydraulic system pressure to remain constant regardless of the state of charge.

Van de Ven, Phase-shift high-speed valve for switching-mode control - The phase-shift high-speed valve enables switch-mode control of hydraulic circuits by providing a high frequency on-off valve with a variable duty ratio. By operating in efficient on or off states, switch-mode control can be applied to a variety of hydraulic circuits and allows any fixed displacement hydraulic pump, motor, or linear actuator to be virtually variable. Furthermore, the valve can be configured to allow pumping and motoring of a single device in both rotating directions, known as four quadrant operation. The valve requires minimimal input energy at high frequency operation by using a continuously rotating valve plate. Due to the axial flow construction, tight control of valve clearance are possible with less expensive manufacturing tolerances.

Prusty Rao, Genetic and Metabolic Engineering of Yeast to Produce Fusel Alcohols- Ethanol is a popular alternative to fossil fuels. The state of the art is that fungi, such as the yeast, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, can ferment ethanol from 6-Carbon sugars, typically glucose, which is found in corn kernels and sugar cane. It is desirable that fungi can ferment 5-Carbon sugars such as xylose and arabinose. These are found in some non-edible sources, such as the corn cob, husks and and hardwoods. Once the fungi can ferment 5-Carbon sugars, we can use the cob and husks for fuel and use the kernels for food. This invention has metabolically and genetically engineered Saccharomyces Cerevisiae so that it can utilize 5-Carbon Sugars to live and grow. This is a key development in the effort of further engineering the Fungi to ferment 5-Carbon sugars into cellulosic ethanol.

Datta/Zhang , PCT/US2004/013333, Electro-Chemical preferential oxidation of carbon monoxide – This invention reduces carbon monoxide levels and the associated interference with hydrogen fuel cell operation.  This greater efficiency is achieved via self-sustaining electro-chemical preferential oxidation of CO in reformate streams thereby avoiding design and operational complexity of traditional preferential oxidation CO technology in the fuel reforming process.

The following eight inventions constitute a family of inventions relating to the design and fabrication of high reliability, lower cost membranes operating at high temperatures for the separation of hydrogen gas at high, industrially useful fluxes from a mixture of gases.

Ma , U.S. Pat. App. No. 10/804,848; U.S. Pat. Pub. No. 20040244583, Method for curing defects in the fabrication of a composite gas separation module*.

Ma , U.S. Pat. App. No. 10/804,847; U.S. Pat. Pub.No. 20040237780, Method for fabricating composite gas separation modules*.

Ma , U.S. Pat. App. No. 10/804,846; U.S. Pat. Pub.No. 20040237779, Composite gas separation modules having intermediate porous metal layer*.

Ma , U.S. Pat. App. No. 10/836,088; U.S. Pat. Pub. No. 20040244590, Composite gas separation modules having high Tamman Temperature intermediate layers*.

Ma , U.S. Pat. App. No. 10/896,743; U.S. Pat. Pub. No. 20060016332, Composite gas separation modules having a layer of particles with a uniform binder metal distribution*.

Ma , PCT/2005/033267, Membrane enhanced reactor*.

Ma , PCT/2005/033289, Membrane steam reformer*.

Ma , PCT/2005/033295, Reactor and process for steam reforming*.


Ma , U.S. Pat. No. 6,152,987 , Hydrogen gas-extraction module and method of fabrication - This invention is the original innovation leading to a protected technology area in high temperature, lower cost membrane development for large volume hydrogen gas separation.

Thompson , U.S. Pat. No. 6,248,682 , Incorporation of zeolites into hybrid polymer matrices - Fabrication of zeolite/hybrid polymer matrices at low temperatures overcomes the problem of higher temperature degradation of organic polymers and limited fluxes of gases for separation applications.

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