Hydrogen sensor to assess fuel quality

Sustainable Innovations (SI) and the University of Connecticut Centre for Clean Energy Engineering (UConn C2E2) have teamed up to develop a breakthrough hydrogen fuel quality sensor for hydrogen vehicles.

The sensor will rapidly assess whether a fuel supply stream is meeting a vehicle’s needs for high performance, reliable operation.

After careful study by an international group of experts, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and others have established hydrogen fuel purity standards that prescribe extremely low levels of several impurities in vehicular fuels that have been linked to performance problems in fuel cell engines. Today, vehicles are at potential risk of damage as the industry develops affordable, commercially available in-line sensing devices to verify that hydrogen-fueling streams meet the standards.

Commenting on the project, Dr Trent Molter, president and CEO of SI, said: “Our sensor provides the linkage and important validation for hydrogen suppliers, vehicle manufacturers and consumers in an electric vehicle industry that is poised to grow to hundreds of billions of dollars or greater given the global demand for clean transportation to meet climate goals. We have already shown in laboratory testing that our innovative electrochemical method is capable of accurate, simultaneous detection of the critical contaminants in a hydrogen supply stream. And our analyses show that the device can be deployed with little cost and very little maintenance.”

The sensor that SI and UConn are developing is innovative in that it is based on electrochemical principals, and can detect multiple impurities at extremely low levels in hydrogen. Within seconds, it sends a signal to shut off the dispenser if a damaging contaminant is detected.

SI has received a contract award from the United States Department of Energy (US DOE) to commercially develop a low-cost sensor that can detect these impurities at the low levels identified in SAE and international standards. This contract comes on the heels of a prior development effort wherein the sensor technology was demonstrated by the team in proof-of-concept form. These sensors are to be placed at each fueling station to provide a go or no-go signal based on the presence of these impurities. The novel sensor being developed by SI and UConn meets a critical need in the deployment of hydrogen fueling stations by lending confidence to both the quality of the fuel supply and fuel cell reliability.

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