Apr. 12, 2007 — The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued two broad patents for fundamental fuel cell technology to PolyFuel, Inc. of Mountain View, Calif. PolyFuel develops engineered membranes for fuel cells, and says that the patents, titled Ion Conductive Block Copolymers and Sulfonated Copolymer, cover “sophisticated chemistry and breakthroughs” behind the company’s hydrocarbon-based polymer products.
The patents are significant, the company says, because such membranes — which resemble flexible sheets of cellophane — are the critical technology behind portable fuel cells, and to a large degree dictate their size, cost, power and efficiency. Such “micro power” fuel cells are widely expected to begin supplanting batteries as the primary power source for power-hungry portable electronic devices such as laptops, PDAs, and smart phones.
PolyFuel engineers its membranes, which work by conducting protons, at the nano level.The company sells to producers of carbon and catalysts, and others who buy MEAs (membrane electrode assemblies).
PolyFuel says that it is moving into the dominant market and technology position on the strength of its membrane technology — and hopes these patent grants will secure its position in hydrocarbon membranes for portable fuel cell applications.
To date, PolyFuel has filed 23 patent applications; these are the first of several “composition of matter” applications to be granted. PolyFuel president and CEO Jim Balcom notes, “In any new field, there are ultimately a few, benchmark patents from which much future technology springs. We believe that this is one of those situations.”