Robert Hockaday’s fuel cell experimentation began in high school days in 1974 in Hawaii. Early tinkering with this idea resulted in a fire in his mother’s oven when the electrodes he was attempting to dry began to burn.

Determining that an effective fuel cell must require a porous surface, he began toying more seriously with fuel cell technology again in 1979 while helping a friend make an electric circuit on an precisely porous substrate called a Nuclepore™ filter. This type of substrate looks like microscopic Swiss cheese and is formed by irradiating a plastic film with charged particles. Hockaday constructed the first fuel cell of this type in Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1980 and tested on the floor of his apartment. This first experimentation was successful and no fire resulted.

Hockaday continued to work on the fuel cell concept for his master’s thesis at New Mexico State University in 1984. Later as a hobby - entirely self funded - he formed Energy Related Devices in 1987. His fuel cell theory gained momentum and substance in 1995 when tests at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed that direct methanol fuel cells obtained good performances. Based on these results, Hockaday determined a fuel cell built like an integrated circuit and conveniently re-fuelable would be a power solution for small electronics technology that was quickly outpacing the capabilities of batteries.

He submitted proposals for SBIR (Small Business Initiative Research) funding to continue his research but his ideas, while being acknowledged as innovative, were considered too “radical” and Hockaday did not get the funding. Undaunted, Hockaday took entrepreneurial leave of absence from his post as a scientist with Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1995 and, at considerable personal expense, continued his experimentation and research while attempting to find private funding. In January 1998 funding was assured when ERD formed a partnership with Manhattan Scientifics, Inc. to develop the Micro Fuel Cell™ to commercial prototype stage.

The Manhattan Scientifics licences agreements were terminated August 18, 2006.

For information about new endeavors and business partners please see News and Publications & Patents.



Walking down the old trail to Los Alamos.      


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