Develop a miniature hydrogen storage system for low-power (1 W to 20 W) fuel cells.
Low-power fuel cells are currently mature enough to meet the requirements of many of the mobile objects people use every day. However, for large-scale rollout of the cells to become a reality, the hydrogen that powers them would need to be packaged appropriately for mobile applications. The HyCan project partners joined forces to pool their know-how in several crucial fields to come up with an aerosol-can-type miniature hydrogen storage system:
- Ad-Venta developed an expansion valve to ensure
controlled release of the gas
- Boxal manufactured the aluminum aerosol-type cans
- McPhy Energy produced metal hydrides capable of
storing hydrogen at low pressure
- PaxiTech designed the low-power fuel cells
- Institut Néel conducted research on new hydrides
suitable for hydrogen storage
- LEREM completed feasibility studies and testing on
the metal containers
The HyCan project resulted in the design and manufacture of a hydrogen storage system suitable for use with low-power fuel cells to power mobile objects like outdoor lighting, USB chargers, portable hand tools, and geolocation systems. The project partners, mainly SMBs, very rapidly developed a hydrogenstorage system. In 2011 they set up HyCan, a joint venture between Ad-Venta, McPhy Energy, and PaxiTech. The HyCan system consists of aluminum cans with a capacity ranging from 200 ml to 800 ml and a mini-expansion-valve, patented by Ad-Venta, that screws on to the cans. The product underwent extensive testing to ensure effective operation and robustness. One of the most conclusive tests involved using the system to power runners’ head lamps in sub-zero temperatures during a night-time endurance race from Lyon to St. Etienne, France. By the end of the project, PaxiTech was able to design an all-inone product in the form of a USB charger containing the fuel cell, hydrogen ‘‘can‘‘, and expansion valve.
The products developed address an emerging market, and the HyCan project helped raise awareness of the potential of hydrogen and fuel cells for mobile applications. PaxiTech has rounded out its product lineup with an all-in-one hydrogen-storage system crucial for using the company’s fuel cells. Ad-Venta leveraged the R&D on the mini-expansion-valve to develop a new product line for automotive applications and hydrogen-fuel-cell protection. McPhy Energy is pursuing its metal-hydride R&D, which did not reach a sufficient degree of maturity to be integrated into a viable product by the project end date. The company has also successfully leveraged the new equipment and know-how it acquired during the project for other applications.
HyCan provided a unique opportunity to showcase the three project partners—all SMBs. As a result of the increased visibility the project brought them, all three partners subsequently participated in new R&D projects and are involved in implementing new hydrogen-based energy solutions. For example, McPhy Energy and PaxiTech have been working together again since 2013 on the EU-backed Hyper project on small stationary hydrogen and fuel cell systems. Ad-Venta is fielding increasing inquiries from mobile energy solutions integrators like drone manufacturers. The company is actively pursuing these opportunities and continuing to roll out its sales strategy targeting applications for mobile hydrogen solutions.