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Fuel Cell Technologies

Developing a Fuel Contamination Detector to Ensure Quality at Hydrogen Refueling Stations

Company Name: Sustainable Innovations, LLC
Program Office: Fuel Cells
Location: East Hartford, CT
Award Amount: $200,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Los Alamos National Laboratory


When we fill our cars with gasoline, it’s easy to take the fuel’s consistent quality for granted. But it took decades of technological innovation to ensure that fuel suppliers could deliver quality gas, consistently, from refinery to pump. Successfully bringing new fuels online, including hydrogen in fuel cell vehicles, will require similar technological advances so that consumers can expect high-quality fuel no matter where they refill. To that end, Sustainable Innovations, LLC is working on a hydrogen contamination detector which can be installed at hydrogen fueling stations to prevent consumers from filling up with poor quality gas.

Developing successful hydrogen purity sensors for fueling will reduce station downtime and help avoid fuel cell vehicle stack failures. Sustainable Innovations’ multi-channel hydrogen fuel quality monitor design can detect multiple impurities at low levels in hydrogen. The proposed design consists of an array of electrochemical sensors tuned to respond to critical concentrations of contaminants as defined in the Society of Automotive Engineers’ standards for hydrogen fuel.

In order to accelerate development and deployment of this technology, this project will use Los Alamos National Laboratory’s facilities and expertise to extensively and rapidly conduct research on existing electrode configurations in the candidate impurity stream. Validation by outside parties which have the capability to perform testing using impurities outlined in industry-wide fuel standards are critically important for commercialization.


Sustainable Innovations develops novel products based on proton exchange membrane technology. One of the benefits of the company’s business model is that all of its product lines use the same core enabling technology to perform their varying functions, meaning subsystems are designed to be modular and scalable in nature and are, to some extent, interchangeable between various product lines with applications across a broad array of industrial, commercial, and military processes.



Ensuring fuel quality in the supply chain will be critical for ramping up hydrogen fuel use in the United States. Several states, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Ohio, New York, and South Carolina, have major hydrogen and fuel cell programs underway. Market research indicates that 5,200 hydrogen fueling stations for cars, buses and forklifts will be operational worldwide by 2020, up from just 200 stations in 2010.


When used in vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells emit nothing but water and hydrogen fuel itself can be produced cleanly.


Fuel cells offer an alternative to diesel for powering military operations in the field, reducing the need for vulnerable fuel convoys. Hydrogen fuel cell systems can also serve as critical backup energy sources for hospitals and other emergency response infrastructure.

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