Genesis Technologies LLC, a small startup company here, is working to develop a methanol-to-hydrogen fuel processor that would be used in portable fuel-cell power systems designed for military field applications.
Genesis landed a contract in August to develop a prototype fuel processor for Boulder, Colo.-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., a U.S. defense and aerospace contractor, and expects to deliver the compact unit in January, says Phillip Piffer, Genesiss president and CEO.
Piffer declines to disclose the dollar value of the work Genesis is doing for Ball, but says, Over the long term it could be very large. Balls expectations are that theyll sell large volumes of these units.
Genesis also has met directly with military officials in recent months, and Piffer says he came away convinced that fuel cells will be their portable power source of choice once everybody is happy with the ruggedness and durability of the machines.
The military branches have shown interest in using fuel cells to provide power for everything from communications to firing systems, Piffer says. A fuel cell offers a lighter weight, its quiet, and it has a low heat signature, compared with other power sources, such as batteries or diesel-powered generators, he asserts.
The hydrogen fuel processor that Genesis is developing for military use weighs less than 20 pounds and is slightly larger than a shoe box, he says. Also called a reformer, its designed to produce high purity hydrogen from fuels such as methanol, ethanol, or alcohol.
In the process, the fuel is mixed with water, pumped into the reformer, heated, and converted to hydrogen and carbon dioxide, after which a membrane extracts the hydrogen. A separate fuel cell then converts that hydrogen into power through an electrochemical process.
You can carry a tremendous amount of power in a one-liter bottle of methanol-water mix, Piffer says.
Genesis developed its first processor last winter, and tested it in February, so the prototype unit it now is preparing to deliver to Ball is a more refined, second-generation product, he says. Ball then will integrate the processor with a fuel cell.
I expect were going to be delivering a second version of a different size by about April, Piffer says. He adds, I am hoping what will happen is later in the year they (military customers) will want to order a number of test units that they can actually put out in the field for shakedown.
Genesis is owned by Piffer, a former oil-and-gas industry management consultant, and Larry Williams and David DeVries, both of whom are former employees of Avista Labs, the technology-development affiliate of Spokane-based Avista Corp.
The three men founded Genesis in Tekoa, Wash., deciding to establish it there mostly for cost reasons, then moved it this summer to a 1,500-square-foot industrial space at 4922 E. Union, near Felts Field airport. Genesis employs just the three owners for now, but Piffer says the company could add a couple of more engineers as early as next month.
In addition to its interest in the military market, Genesis is developing reformers of varying sizes for commercial use, and hopes to generate enough orders to begin mass-producing them next year, Piffer says.
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