Works in Progress
technologies currently in development
- Fuel Cell Technologies
- Solar Cell Technologies
- Mosquito Repellents
- Anaerobic Digestors
- Catalytic Reactors
Fuel cells are devices that convert the chemical energy stored in a fuel into electrical energy through a chemical reaction. They are considered to be one of the most promising alternative energy technologies, as they offer high efficiency, low emissions, and potentially low cost. Fuel cells can operate on a variety of fuels, including hydrogen, natural gas, methanol, and ethanol, and they can be used in a wide range of applications, from transportation to stationary power generation.
The basic principle of a fuel cell is the conversion of chemical energy into electrical energy through an electrochemical reaction. The reaction takes place between the fuel and an oxidant, typically oxygen or air, at the electrodes of the fuel cell. The fuel and oxidant are kept separate by an electrolyte, which allows only charged particles, such as ions, to pass through. The chemical reaction at the electrodes generates an electrical current that can be used to power a device or stored in a battery.
The most common type of fuel cell is the proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), which operates on hydrogen fuel and oxygen or air as the oxidant. PEMFCs are widely used in transportation applications, such as fuel cell vehicles and buses, as well as in portable power devices, such as laptops and cell phones. PEMFCs offer high efficiency, low emissions, and fast start-up times, making them a promising alternative to traditional internal combustion engines.
Another type of fuel cell is the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC), which operates at high temperatures and can use a variety of fuels, including natural gas, propane, and biofuels. SOFCs are primarily used in stationary power generation applications, such as residential and commercial buildings, as well as in large-scale power plants. SOFCs offer high efficiency and low emissions, but they are typically more expensive and require more maintenance than PEMFCs.
Fuel cells offer several advantages over traditional combustion-based technologies, including high efficiency, low emissions, and potentially low cost. Fuel cells can also be used in a wide range of applications, from transportation to stationary power generation, making them a versatile technology. However, there are also several challenges that must be addressed in order to make fuel cells a viable alternative to traditional energy sources.
One of the biggest challenges facing fuel cell technology is the cost of production. Fuel cells require expensive materials, such as platinum, to function, which can drive up the cost of the technology. Additionally, the infrastructure required to produce, store, and distribute hydrogen fuel is not yet widely available, which can limit the widespread adoption of fuel cell technology.
Another challenge facing fuel cell technology is the durability and reliability of the devices. Fuel cells are subject to degradation over time, which can reduce their efficiency and lifespan. Additionally, fuel cells require careful management of their operating conditions, such as temperature and humidity, to ensure optimal performance.
Despite these challenges, fuel cell technology continues to show promise as a viable alternative to traditional energy sources. Advances in materials science, manufacturing processes, and infrastructure development are helping to address some of the key challenges facing fuel cell technology. Additionally, government and industry support for fuel cell research and development is helping to drive innovation and reduce costs.
The micro-fuel cell is like the cell of any living thing: Input fuel is a hydrocarbon that is broken down catalytically, producing energy and harmless “waste” products of heat, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. The collection and energy distribution scheme of this micro-fuel cell system can be likened to the capillaries and veins in an animal.
The Micro Fuel Cell™ from Energy Related Devices is fueled by methanol or ethanol and is constructed with multiple layers of thin films. The alcohol side of the film contains a catalyst that breaks the alcohol down into hydrogen ions and carbon dioxide. This generates a negative electrical potential on the alcohol electrode. The hydrogen ions move through the film to the oxygen electrode on the air side of the cell. The hydrogen ions combine with oxygen from the air to produce water vapor. This produces a positive charge on the oxygen electrode. The oxygen and alcohol electrodes form the positive and negative terminals of the fuel cell; this is equivalent to the positive and negative terminals on a conventional battery.
–Can be manufactured inexpensively using a printing process similar to the manufacture of computer chips
–Environmentally responsible energy source that is non-polluting and does not involve the use of toxic chemicals
–Instant refuel with methanol or ethanol, a safe, low-flammability, inexpensive, renewable, plant-based energy source
–“Always On” power source
–Lightweight, compact size
–20 year estimated shelf-life
Agricultural Photovoltaic Systems
Photovoltaic cells, also known as solar cells, are semiconductor devices that convert sunlight directly into electricity. They have been widely used in various fields, including agriculture. The use of photovoltaic cells in agriculture has been increasing in recent years due to the need for sustainable energy sources and the availability of government incentives for renewable energy systems.
Working Principles of Photovoltaic Cells
Photovoltaic cells are made of two layers of semiconductor materials, usually silicon, that have different levels of impurities. One layer has an excess of electrons (n-type) while the other has a deficiency of electrons (p-type). When sunlight hits the cell, photons are absorbed by the semiconductor material, and the energy of the photons is transferred to the electrons in the material, causing them to become excited and leave their atoms. The electrons are then free to move and create an electric current when they are captured by an external circuit.
The flow of electrons from the n-type layer to the p-type layer generates an electric field that opposes the flow of electrons. This electric field is created by the difference in the levels of impurities in the two layers. As long as sunlight is present, a current will be generated by the flow of electrons.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Photovoltaic Cells
The main advantage of photovoltaic cells is that they produce electricity from sunlight, which is a renewable and sustainable source of energy. Unlike traditional fossil fuels, sunlight is abundant and free, and it does not produce harmful emissions. Additionally, photovoltaic cells have no moving parts and require little maintenance, making them a reliable and low-cost source of energy.
However, there are also some disadvantages to photovoltaic cells. One is that they are relatively expensive to manufacture, although their cost has been decreasing over the years. Another is that they are not very efficient at converting sunlight into electricity, with current efficiencies ranging from 15-25%. This means that a large area of cells is needed to produce a significant amount of electricity. Photovoltaic cells also require sunlight to function, so they are not suitable for areas with limited sunlight or during nighttime.
Applications of Photovoltaic Cells in Agriculture
The use of photovoltaic cells in agriculture has several benefits. One is that they can provide a reliable and cost-effective source of energy for farming operations, such as irrigation, lighting, and ventilation systems. By using photovoltaic cells, farmers can reduce their energy bills and become more self-sufficient. They can also reduce their carbon footprint by using a renewable source of energy.
Another application of photovoltaic cells in agriculture is for remote monitoring systems. Farmers can use photovoltaic cells to power sensors and cameras that can monitor crops, soil moisture levels, and weather conditions. This information can be used to optimize irrigation schedules, detect plant diseases, and make better decisions about crop management.
Photovoltaic cells can also be used to power electric fences and deter wildlife from damaging crops. This can be especially useful in areas where wildlife damage is a significant problem, as it can reduce the need for expensive and harmful chemical pesticides.
One innovative use of photovoltaic cells in agriculture is for vertical farming systems. These systems use stacked layers of plants grown under controlled conditions, such as hydroponics or aeroponics. By using photovoltaic cells to power the lighting and climate control systems, vertical farms can reduce their energy costs and carbon footprint. They can also produce high-quality, pesticide-free crops in urban areas, reducing transportation costs and increasing access to fresh produce.
ERD has created a revolutionary photovoltaic mount system called BlackTip™ that optimizes the performance of the photovoltaic panels, battery energy storage, fuel cells, and inverter electronics. The system is designed to be a plug-and-play modular system that can be rolled in place with a recycled tire base. The BlackTip™ reinforced photovoltaic panel enables the system to withstand hurricane force winds and regain 5% performance loss by dissipating heat, while doubling the lifetime of the panels. Inside the shelter of the photovoltaic panel and tire base, batteries, and fuel cells performance is optimized. Each rubber tire base has a fuel capacity of up to 50 gallons of methanol fuel for the fuel cells.
Effective Mosquito Repellents and Attractants
Bug bites are not only irritating and unattractive, but are responsible for 3.3 million annual deaths worldwide. The most effective insect repellents available today are topical which means they are easily washed off and absorbed into the skin and last a maximum of 8 hours. This poses a frightening reality that not only are we poorly protected from insects, but we are applying chemicals to our skin (DEET, the most effective repellent, is so powerful it dissolves plastic). Unfortunately, organic solutions have thus far been proved to be a poor substitute for the stronger chemicals.
DEET, also known as N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, is a common active ingredient found in many mosquito repellents. It works by disrupting the mosquito’s ability to detect human skin and blood.
Mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide and other chemicals in our breath and sweat. Once they get close to us, they use their sense of smell to locate our skin and find a blood vessel to feed on. DEET interferes with this process by masking the chemicals that the mosquitoes are attracted to, making it harder for them to find us.
DEET does not kill mosquitoes; it simply makes us less attractive to them. It traditionally needs to be reapplied directly to the skin every few hours in order to provide protection.
ERD has created and tested a revolutionary vapor system which avoids exposing users to liquid skin contact while effectively keeping insects at bay for longer…much longer. The system is enclosed within a lightweight and stylish wristband trademarked as BugZing™. The BugZing™ slap band can be worn or on or off the wrist or ankles and can continuously deliver a steady effective insect repelling scent combination for over 800 hours. New Mexico State University conducted Independent testing in 2014 and showed a 10 to 1 reduction in attractiveness in close proximity and a 60:1 reduction in an open field test. BugBling™ can be stowed by zip sealing in the low permeability product package giving it a standby life of over 15 years. (US Utility Patent 7,988,984, Applied for US Trademark: BugZing™)
Thermophilic Anaerobic Digestors
Energy Related Devices has teamed up with Tucumcari Bio Energy, Inc. to retrofit a former ethanol plant facility in Tucumcari, NM to simultaneously achieve two primary objectives: anaerobically digest local manure, whey wastewater, and effluent wastewater to create a cost-effective organic fertilizer for local farmers; and capture and purify methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide to produce clean fuel for farming practices.
Thermophilic anaerobic bacteria are a group of microorganisms that thrive in high-temperature environments and are capable of breaking down organic matter in the absence of oxygen. These bacteria can be found in a variety of environments, including soil, compost, and the digestive tracts of animals. In manure digestion, thermophilic anaerobic bacteria play a critical role in breaking down organic matter into biogas, which is a mixture of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2).
Manure digestion is a process in which organic matter, such as manure, is broken down by bacteria in an oxygen-free environment to produce biogas. The biogas can then be used as a source of renewable energy or as a fertilizer. The process of manure digestion involves three main stages: hydrolysis, acidogenesis, and methanogenesis.
In the hydrolysis stage, enzymes break down complex organic matter into simpler compounds, such as sugars and amino acids. These compounds are then broken down further in the acidogenesis stage, where acid-forming bacteria convert them into volatile fatty acids (VFAs), such as acetic acid and butyric acid. Finally, in the methanogenesis stage, methanogenic bacteria convert the VFAs into biogas, which is mostly composed of methane and carbon dioxide.
Role of Thermophilic Anaerobic Bacteria in Manure Digestion:
Thermophilic anaerobic bacteria play a crucial role in manure digestion, as they are responsible for breaking down the organic matter into VFAs and ultimately biogas. These bacteria are particularly effective at breaking down complex organic matter, such as lignocellulose, which is found in plant material and is difficult to digest. They are also able to tolerate high temperatures, which makes them well-suited for manure digestion.
One of the key benefits of using thermophilic anaerobic bacteria for manure digestion is that it can significantly reduce the amount of methane emissions from livestock manure. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential 25 times greater than that of CO2. By converting methane into biogas, thermophilic anaerobic bacteria can prevent it from entering the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.
In addition to reducing methane emissions, manure digestion with thermophilic anaerobic bacteria can also help reduce CO2 emissions. This is because the biogas produced during the process can be used as a source of renewable energy, which can replace fossil fuels that would otherwise be burned to generate electricity. By using biogas instead of fossil fuels, CO2 emissions can be significantly reduced.
Catalytic Reactors for Mass Deployment
Catalytic reactors and heaters are important tools for many industrial processes, ranging from petroleum refining to the production of chemicals and materials. These devices use catalysts to speed up chemical reactions and convert reactants into products more efficiently.
Catalytic reactions are chemical reactions that occur in the presence of a catalyst. A catalyst is a substance that accelerates a chemical reaction by providing an alternative pathway with a lower activation energy. This lowers the amount of energy required to initiate the reaction, allowing it to proceed more rapidly. Catalysts are not consumed in the reaction and can be reused multiple times.
Catalytic heaters are a type of catalytic reactor that use a catalyst to produce heat by catalyzing the combustion of a fuel. The fuel is typically a hydrocarbon such as natural gas, propane, or butane. The catalyst promotes the oxidation of the fuel to produce heat, water, and carbon dioxide. This process is highly efficient and produces almost no harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, or particulate matter.