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SiGNa's portable hydrogen power solution due out soon

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June 5, 2012

SiGNa Chemistry has received funding from USAID to develop portable hydrogen fuel technolo...

SiGNa Chemistry has received funding from USAID to develop portable hydrogen fuel technology, such as the DPS 300 hydrogen generator (left)

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SiGNa Chemistry, a company developing portable hydrogen fuel technology, is close to taking one of its solutions to market. Hydrogen is an emissions-free renewable source of energy – however, logistic obstacles related to current considerations such as high-pressure tanks, and metal and chemical hydrides, have stymied its progress towards the mass market.

SiGNA’s solution uses sodium silicide (NaSi) to produce clean hydrogen gas in real time, in response to fuel cell demand at pressures smaller than those found in a common soda can. Sodium silicide is a non-flammable, air-stable powder that instantly reacts with water (or water solutions, including urine) to form pure hydrogen. It is more efficient than pure sodium and safer than other materials because it does not store hydrogen. SiGNa’s development activities focus primarily on the sodium silicide cartridges, which are designed to be integrated with any fuel cell system, although the company has developed its own fuel cell systems for demonstration purposes.

SiGNa has three main solutions in development and the one closest to market is the PowerTrekk, which should be going on sale by August from outdoor gear REI stores, although it had been expected last October. Designed by Swedish company myFC, the 2-in-1 device features a fuel cell battery pack and replaceable fuel cartridges. Each fuel cartridge weighs 30 grams (1.05 oz) and has an indefinite shelf life.

PowerTrekk is designed to work anywhere and power all types of electrical devices that require less than 4W, including cell phones, cameras, iPods, GPS systems, and PDAs. SiGNa says that each fuel cartridge provides up to four hours of energy and costs less than a 4-pack of AA batteries. The fuel cartridges are manufactured with sustainable materials and are fully recyclable.

The company is also developing the DPS 300, a hydrogen generator that works very similarly to a traditional gas generator or battery-powered uninterruptable power supply. It was developed with help from The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) after SiGNa received Stage 1 funding in 2010. Again, the user simply needs to add water, and the sodium silicide fuel cartridges will instantly produce the hydrogen that allows the fuel cell to create electricity. SiGNa says it is six times cheaper, much lighter, and smaller than existing battery technology. It could power any device that requires less than 250W, including phones, computers, water filters and small fridges. The device is a tough little number that can endure extreme temperatures (-10°C to + 50°C, or 14ºF to 122ºF), which makes it an ideal solution for people living in zones without connection to an electric grid.

Cyclists can also look forward to SiGNa’s hydrogen-powered future as the company has created a fuel cell to power electric bikes from Pedego. The power platform, called range extender, instantly produces hydrogen gas and converts hydrogen to electricity, estimated at up to 200W of continuous power. The fuel is stored in hot-swappable light fuel cartridges that weigh 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg). Excess energy is stored in a lithium battery for use in more energy-intensive conditions, such as steep tracks. It increases the current e-bike standard of 20 miles (32 km) without pedaling to more than 60 miles (96.5 km) for each carried cartridge.

Best of all, the only other emission apart from water vapor generated by hydrogen is the cyclist’s perspiration.

Source: SiGNa

About the Author
Antonio Pasolini Brazilian-Italian Antonio Pasolini graduated in journalism in Brazil before heading out to London for an MA in film and television studies. He fell in love with the city and spent 13 years there as a film reviewer before settling back in Brazil. Antonio's passion for green issues - and the outdoors - eventually got the best of him and since 2007 he's been writing about alternative energy, sustainability and new technology.   All articles by Antonio Pasolini
9 Comments

"Hydrogen is an emissions-free renewable source of energy"

Wrong. Hydrogen is an energy carrier. For it to be a source would mean that its readily available to us, and it is not. There are no hydrogen mines. Hydrogen requires energy to produce.

rubley
6th June, 2012 @ 10:38 am PDT

@Rubley.. you beat me to the punch. Hydrogen is not a renewable "source" of energy (like sun, oil, natural gas, wood, etc.)... it is only a energy "medium" for chemically storing energy for later use in a Fuel Cell or direct burning.

Fuel Source-->Electricity-->Hydrogen-->Fuel Cell-->Electricity.

Matt Rings
6th June, 2012 @ 11:48 am PDT

How many kw hours per liter of sodium silicide?

Slowburn
6th June, 2012 @ 12:02 pm PDT

Also how much does the sodium silicide cost per kw?

Slowburn
6th June, 2012 @ 12:03 pm PDT

@ rubley and matt... Yes hydrogen is not a source, but actually oil, nat gas, wind and wood are also just carriers if you want to get technical. The only actual sources of energy are 1) The Sun 2) Geothermal heat and 3) Nuclear.

The Sun's energy became oil and natural gas via decayed plants and animals. Wood is also stored energy from the sun from photosynthesis. Wind moves because of temp changes by the sun. Energy can be harnessed also from the earths core and from Nuclear Fission (and hopefully Fusion one day) but most of what we think of as energy "sources" are from the Sun ultimately. It's just that oil stored it's energy a long time ago. I know I'm nit picking but it's true.

TCT
6th June, 2012 @ 01:57 pm PDT

Oil, Natural Gas, Wind, Hydro, Wood are all manifestations of solar power. Geothermal is actually a manifestation of radioactivity in the Earth's core. And of course the Sun generates energy through nuclear fusion. So when it comes down to it, there is only one true source - nuclear (fusion/fission).

But, the previously mentioned manifestations are all sources of energy *to us* because we can exploit them directly. Hydrogen cannot be exploited directly - there are not billions of cubic feet of it laying around underground like natural gas. We have no direct access to hydrogen, we must isolate it - using energy from something that is a source to us. The so-called "hydrogen economy" will *never* exist. Its just fantasy based on our love of burning things and our (American) perceived right to own a vehicle capable of traveling hundreds of miles on a whim, and thousands of miles with minimal fueling. Well, physics doesn't grant us any rights, and when oil production no longer meets demand (soon), Americans will learn that.

rubley
6th June, 2012 @ 07:29 pm PDT

re; rubley

That song has been being preached by doomsayers for almost as long as they have been promising net positive fusion power.

I'm old enough to remember people who should have known better saying that twelve feet of water would make it impossible to extract oil from off the gulf coast.

Slowburn
7th June, 2012 @ 08:41 pm PDT

@ rubley

I wasn't commenting on the viability of hydrogen for fuel; I was just commenting on the semantics of an "energy source" that was being jumped on in first few posts. You're just playing with words now. Just because something is readily available doesn't make it a source, but if that is the definition you want to use then fine.

But as long as you are bringing up hydrogen's viability, I agree in theory but think we should keep open minds. Oil extraction energy costs went from needing on average 1 barrel of oil energy equivalent to extract 100 barrels of oil decades ago to now needing on average about 1 barrel of oil energy equivalent to extract 3 barrels of oil.

Plus we need to consider all the energy lost on the externalities of oil; health issues, climate change, environmental cleanup, etc. I imagine at some point, if not already, hydrogen may become a cheaper alternative even after we have to "charge" it up to a usable form. Yes batteries (I think) are a denser carrier of energy than hydrogen, but there are probably some applications where batteries are not as as good. Maybe in aviation? Just google "hydrogen home" for an example of a guy that uses solar to charge his batteries and then when those are full he fills tanks of hydrogen in his yard to use for long term storage for winter when solar is not keeping up. He would need huge banks of batteries. Plus he uses the hydrogen on a hydrogen car, ATV, and cook stove. Plus a recent development in alternatives to platinum could bring fuel cell prices way down. Just saying, lets keep an open mind.

TCT
8th June, 2012 @ 09:54 am PDT

This is not a good solution. You have to buy their fuel pucks. It is still a centralized, controlling system. All that you need is a simple PEM electrolyzer and a hydride-filled cannister to store the H2. Then a solar panel and sunshine completes the circuit.

Darin Selby
9th August, 2014 @ 06:05 am PDT
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