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Celadyne: Making Hydrogen Fuel Cells More Efficient by Coating Membranes with Nanoparticles

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By: Headliners News / February 27, 2024

In the growing industry space of hydrogen technology, Chicago-based startup Celadyne emerges as a true game-changer, aiming to overcome the notorious chicken-and-egg dilemma. Hydrogen faces a challenge—insufficient demand hinders supplier involvement, while limited supply impedes demand growth. Celadyne addresses both aspects by introducing a groundbreaking solution.

Led by founder and CEO Gary Ong, Celadyne has pioneered a nanoparticle coating designed for application on existing fuel cell and electrolyzer membranes. This innovative material not only promises to significantly enhance the durability of current fuel cell designs but also boosts hydrogen production efficiency by an impressive 15% to 20%.

Recently securing a noteworthy $4.5 million in a seed funding round, spearheaded by Dynamo Ventures and Maniv, with EPS Ventures participating, Celadyne is geared up to scale production of its nanoparticle coating. The infusion of funds will predominantly facilitate increased manufacturing to conduct rigorous tests, validating the coating’s durability and efficiency claims.

Ong, in his strategic approach, recognized the need to address both the demand and supply sides of the hydrogen equation. Emphasizing the pivotal role of hydrogen in industrial decarbonization, Celadyne is positioned uniquely, bridging gaps that other players may overlook.

The heart of the matter lies in the basic chemical reaction engineers employ to generate hydrogen and then utilize it. Whether through an electrolyzer or a fuel cell, the proton-exchange membrane (PEM) plays a crucial role. Yet, the risk of hydrogen crossover persists, compromising fuel cell durability and creating hazardous conditions in electrolyzers. Traditionally, attempts to mitigate this issue involved thicker membranes, sacrificing efficiency without fully resolving durability challenges.

Celadyne’s breakthrough technology centers around thinner membranes. The patent-pending solution involves coating membranes with crystalline metal oxide, such as titanium oxide. This inserted step in the membrane production process aligns with traditional methods, ensuring cost-effectiveness. The potential benefits extend to reduced production costs and enhanced efficiency, positioning Celadyne as a pioneer in addressing critical challenges in the hydrogen sector.

Supported by the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides a green hydrogen production tax credit of $3 per kilogram, Celadyne’s coating has the potential to drive hydrogen production costs down to $1 per kilogram, fostering competitiveness with fossil fuels across diverse applications.

Celadyne has entered discussions with automotive companies, providing membrane materials for validation, and secured a partnership with a Northeast grid participant for an electrolyzer project. The startup plans to offer membrane materials initially to automotive and trucking companies for fuel cell integration. Subsequently, leveraging revenue from these sales, Celadyne aims to venture into electrolyzer production in the 1MW to 10MW range, targeting utilities and oil and gas companies.

Celadyne’s ambitious business model, addressing both sides of the chicken-and-egg challenge, sets the stage for potential industry transformation. As the startup navigates the complexities of scaling production, it exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit of reaching for high goals in an underdeveloped sector. In the unpredictable landscape of hydrogen, Celadyne embraces challenges, showcasing the resilience and ambition inherent in successful startups.

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