Spokane Journal of Business

ReliOn receives new patent for fuel cells' inner structure

Company CEO Flood also selected to join committee for Department of Energy

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ReliOn Inc., the Spokane Valley-based manufacturer of fuel cell-powered, backup power systems, has received approval of a recent patent request for the internal technology used in its newest product line.

The newly granted patent will enable ReliOn to manufacture its E-Series line of backup generator systems at a lower cost. It also will allow the company to use some automated manufacturing processes, making the E-Series' component assembly easier and more efficient, says ReliOn marking director Sandra Saathoff.

The recent patent issuance brings the company's total U.S. patents to 36, Saathoff says. ReliOn also holds 38 foreign patents, she says.

ReliOn launched the first generator in its E-Series line, called the E-200, in late 2009, Saathoff says. Now, the company offers its customers four options in that product series, with the newest component, called the E-1100V, debuting earlier this year, she says.

The newer generation of generators is smaller in size than past product lines, Saathoff says, and also has the capacity to generate more power in a smaller space than older lines.

For example, she says one model in ReliOn's T-Series that's about the size of a mini refrigerator can generate 2 kilowatts of power, while an E-Series model that's the size of a microwave oven has a generation capacity of 2.5 kilowatts.

ReliOn's fuel-cell power systems generate a direct current via an electrochemical reaction when hydrogen gas is pumped through a fuel cell that houses a technology called a proton exchange membrane. The electrons from the hydrogen atoms enter an electrical circuit while hydrogen protons pass through the membrane, and once the electrons complete that circuit, they recombine with the protons and oxygen from the air to form water vapor. That vapor is the system's only byproduct.

Users of ReliOn's backup power generation systems include companies in the telecommunications, utility, transportation, and government sectors.

Meanwhile, ReliOn announced earlier this week that company President and CEO Gary Flood has been appointed to the U.S. Department of Energy's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee. That committee was established under a provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to advise the U.S. Secretary of Energy on related programs and activities.

In a press release ReliOn issued about the appointment, Flood said, "I believe that, based on my role at ReliOn, I will be able to offer a commercial viewpoint on application growth and needs of the commercial markets for hydrogen fuel cell systems."

Flood's term will run through July 16, 2014, the release says.

ReliOn's 29,300-square-foot headquarters is located in the Spokane Business & Industrial Park, at 15913 E. Euclid. It employs a steady core of just under 50 people.

The company has more than 1,400 of its systems installed in 42 U.S. states and 34 countries with a total power generating capacity of more than 4.1 megawatts.

  • Chey Scott

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