The Hydricle was our senior design project during the year of 2012-2013. To give an overview, the technology’s purpose was to build an extraordinarily lightweight beverage/beer cooler for football tailgates in the hot Florida sun.
We hated the fact it took so much effort to bring beverages to tailgates, i.e. lbs of ice, and too much hastle.
The technology centers around Metal Hydride technology, which uses Hydrogen as a fuel source to maintain low temperatures in the cooler. Our team is looking for collaborators to help us figure out what the potential of the technology is, how to make it better, and most importantly, how to make it sell.
Metal hydride fuel cells are a subclass of alkaline fuel cells that are in the research and development phase. A notable feature is their ability to chemically bond and store hydrogen within the cell. This feature is shared with direct borohydride fuel cells, although the two differ in that MHFCs are refueled with pure hydrogen. Though the absorption characteristic of metal hydrides (around 2%) is far lower than sodium-borohydrides and other “light” metal hydrides (around 10.8%), prototypes have been claimed to demonstrate a number of interesting characteristics:
The ability to be recharged with electrical energy (similar to NiMH batteries);
Low operating temperatures (down to −20°C);
Extended shelf life;
Fast “cold start” properties;
Ability to operate for limited periods of time with no external hydrogen source, enabling “hot swapping” of fuel canisters.
Metal hydrides fuel cells are being researched by ECD Ovonics, as well as by the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). Though similar, the two MHFC concepts use different catalysts. Thus far, neither research project has produced a demonstrable model outside of a laboratory – only publications and patents – and significant efficiency hurdles have yet to be overcome. The Ovonics and AIST metal hydride fuel cells claim current densities of 250 mA/cm² and 20 mA/cm², respectively, versus typical PEMFC performance at 1 A/cm².