How does a Michigan State University scientist fuel his enthusiasm for chemistry after 60 years? By discovering a new energy source, of course.
And it is why the American firm SiGNa Chemistry recently unveiled its new hydrogen cartridges, which provide energy to fuel cells designed to recharge cell phones, laptops and GPS units.
The green power source is geared towards outdoor enthusiasts as well as residents of the third world, where electricity in homes is considered a luxury.
The spark for this groundbreaking technology came from the laboratory of James Dye, SiGNa’s co-founder and university distinguished professor of chemistry emeritus at MSU.
His work with alkali metals led to a green process to harness the power of sodium silicide, which is the source for SiGNa’s new product.
“In our lab we were able to produce alkali metal silicides, which basically are made from sodium and silicon, which, in turn, are produced from salt and sand,” Dye said.
“By adding water to sodium silicide we were able to produce hydrogen, which creates energy for fuel cells.
“The by-product, sodium silicate, is also green. It’s the same stuff found in toothpaste.”
SiGNa was able to build on Dye’s research and develop a power platform that produces low-pressure hydrogen gas on demand, convert it to electricity via a low-cost fuel cell and emit a simple water vapour.
Dye, director of SiGNa’s scientific council, said that making the jump to research the company’s products was a small one.
“I’ve been working with alkali metals for 50 years,” he said.
“My research was closely related to what SiGNa was looking for.
“So when they came to me with their idea, it was a relatively easy adaptation to make.”
Using a similar process, Dye assisted the creation of a fuel source to power electric bicycles. The fuel cell, developed by SiGNa’s partners, ranges from one watt to 3KW and is capable of pushing a bicycle at up to 25mph for 100 miles.