Eternium Aerospace launches crowdfunding campaign

A rendering of the firefighting variant, a semi-autonomous hydrogen-powered zero-emission aircraft from Eternium Aerospace – image: Eternium Aerospace

Eternium Aerospace has launched a Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign as it moves from the design test phase of its electrolysis and liquefaction system to building scale prototypes to produce liquid hydrogen. If successful, Eternium’s systems approach to generating liquid hydrogen as a fuel source could revolutionize a developing hydrogen economy.

“The problem with fuel cell vehicles in general is that the refueling infrastructure lags behind,” said Jared Semik, founder and president of Eternium Aerospace. “We have viable fuel cell technology, but we don’t have a really good refueling system that doesn’t require methane steam reforming.”

According to Semik, 96% of liquid hydrogen is created through a steam reforming process in which methane is broken down into its diatomic state of hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide. It is a process that largely depends on the use of fossil fuels.

The remaining 4% of liquid hydrogen is made by electrolysis, a process that Eternium seeks to transform.

“The state-of-the-art electrolysis system right now is ‘high pressure alkaline water electrolysis,’ and it’s one of the most efficient ways of electrolysis,” Semik said. “The problem with this, however, is that it requires a greater electrical energy input for a lower hydrogen yield, compared to the predominant steam reforming process. So to create liquid hydrogen, you You have two options: either you still use fossil fuels by steam reforming, or you run a net energy deficit by using electrolysis.”

A rendering of Eternium Aerospace’s semi-autonomous zero-emissions hydrogen aircraft – image: Eternium Aerospace

Electrolysis is a process in which electrical energy is applied to water to isolate its diatomic hydrogen molecules. In order to reach this point of isolation, which Semik calls the “enthalpy dissociation of water”, a massive amount of electrical energy is needed – energy that often comes from fossil fuel sources.

“In this case for electrolysis, it would work against the use of hydrogen because we still use fossil fuels from places like coal or nuclear power plants for the electric power we need. “Semik said. “So Eternium decided early on that we need to develop not only aircraft that will run on hydrogen fuel cell technologies, but we’re also preceding all of that with our electrolysis and liquefaction system that will help build the infrastructure. hydrogen fuel.”

Eternium has designed and tested an innovative electrolysis process that would dramatically reduce the amount of electrical energy needed to create liquid hydrogen.

“With our technology, we use heat from concentrated solar or geothermal sources to do all the heavy lifting instead of this large amount of electrical power,” Semik said. “When you use concentrated solar thermal power, you increase the energy inside the water. So between the increase in heat and pressure on the alkali hydroxide, the water and hydroxide molecules in the system basically approach this enthalpy of dissociation, or the energy required to dissociate these atoms. At this point, the electrical current required to power the electrolysis system is lower while the hydrogen yield is 350% higher. »

Energy density graph – image: courtesy of Ethereum Aerospace

By using solar or geothermal sources to apply heat, in addition to circumventing the need for massive amounts of electricity dependent on fossil fuels, this process would significantly increase hydrogen yield due to the higher levels of hydrogen resulting from the application of heat to water.

From there, the hydrogen gas created can then go through a multi-stage liquefaction system to make liquid hydrogen.

“The way hydrogen liquefaction currently works is to pass hydrogen gas through a multi-stage system to pre-cool it with liquid nitrogen,” Semik said. “Then they pre-pressurize it to create the Joule-Thomson effect: they compress the gas and add heat, then that heat is dissipated through a heat exchanger. Air is then blown over the heat coil to cool it, and from there it enters an expansion chamber where it liquefies. It’s basically the same way your air conditioning works.

The main advantage of this electrolysis and liquefaction system is its minimal dependence on electrical energy, mainly from a grid or a power station.

“As a society, we have to pay for electric power, in terms of extracting fossil fuels and the resulting pollutants,” Semik said. “But if you can eliminate the amount of electrical current that you put into an electrolysis and liquefaction system, that means we don’t have grid losses because you’re generating all that energy locally. [from solar or geothermal sources]. This way you have none of the environmental or infrastructure issues associated with natural gas, coal or nuclear power plants.

If successful, Eternium’s electrolysis and liquefaction system will not only create environmental benefits, but will also have significant economic and geopolitical implications.

“The advantage of our system is that all you need is a water source, a source for your hydroxides, and an area for solar concentration or geothermal heat source,” Semik said. “It’s the giant kicker and that’s the one thing I really want everyone to know about the process: you can do it anywhere.”

Sources of hydrogen production – image: courtesy of Eternium Aerospace

A veteran with three overseas deployments, which included providing humanitarian aid in developing countries, Semik recognizes what energy independence could mean on the geopolitical landscape.

“When you can generate your own energy, it gives you geopolitical independence, fiscal independence and economic independence,” Semik said. “With our process, you can do this anywhere there is sun or geothermal sources, which is pretty much the entire planet. Anyone can invest in this technology to make hydrogen, a superior transportation fuel because it is more energy dense than all fossil fuels, including jet fuel, by orders of magnitude.

Therefore, Semik relies on means such as the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, to reinforce Eternium’s ambition to “democratize fuel”.

“The funding strategy for this element of our development as a business initially focused on crowdfunding,” Semik said. “Then depending on the success of this gets us to the point where we can put all of these resources into proving our electrolysis and liquefaction system on a scaled version, we could start producing liquid hydrogen. with the system.”

To date, Eternium’s electrolysis and liquefaction system has been academically proven through research conducted in collaboration with scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). Now, Semik hopes that crowdfunding campaigns through platforms such as Indiegogo will propel their system forward with a minimum viable product.

“The crowdfunding campaign is going to take us across the development finish line where we can start and show that this is a real viable opportunity with concentrated thermal power,” Semik said. “We will soon be able to say that we have obtained this increase in efficiency with this decrease in current, while creating this volume of liquefied hydrogen. At this point we will have created this whole dataset which then becomes essentially global [intellectual property] IP, but obviously we will own the IP for the process. »

For now, Eternium’s crowdfunding goal is $250,000 that will go toward prototyping, materials, and processes to build a scaled version of its electrolysis and liquefaction system.

Their end goal, however, is much bigger.

“The end goal is to create a plant the size of Crescent Dunes in Tonopah, Nevada, or Ivanpah in California and have a multi-megawatt solar concentrator system dedicated to hydrogen production,” said Semik said. “On a global scale, however, it must be recognized that energy independence can really begin to balance economies around the world.”

Scott King writes about science and the environment for the Sierra Nevada Ally. He holds a master’s degree in media innovation from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a bachelor’s degree in professional writing with a minor in marketing from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. Scott served for two years as a literacy instructor with the Peace Corps in the community of Gouyave, Grenada. Support his work.

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