In this business of championing green energy solutions that are sustainable, too much in the way of bad news is found when chemical companies and their convoluted product supply chains get dissected.
SiGNa Chemistry stands as an exceptional green chemistry company in its manufacture of hydrogen fuel cartridges. The company’s free flowing, non-pyrophoric sodium silicide (NaSi) powders are easily handled and used in the manufacture of hydrogen fuel cells. They are stable in air at room temperature, absorbing moisture slowly without ignition. Their reaction with water occurs rapidly and completely without a catalyst to produce greater than 9.8 wt.% clean hydrogen gas with environmentally friendly by-products.
“For SiGNa, green chemistry is both good science and good business,” says public affairs spokesperson Kate Carney. “Our green chemistry practices begin in the lab, where we continually look for better ways to create new materials and perform cleaner chemical processes. This means creating chemicals that result in fewer toxic byproducts; finding ways to use fewer toxic solvents and create less waste; and helping our customers adjust their chemical processing practices to become cleaner and more efficient. “
Carney adds that such a process must go beyond the lab and continue throughout the product lifecycle.
SiGNa DPS 300 fuel cell generator (bottom left)
“With our NaSi fuel cartridges, for example, we created an energy technology that offers environmental benefits throughout its lifecycle, from manufacturing right through disposal. NaSi is manufactured using renewable and sustainable raw materials that are produced here in the United States. Very little energy is needed to produce NaSi; the manufacturing process also does not require toxic solvents and it has a very small carbon footprint.”
According to Carney, when these fuel cartridges are used to provide electricity, the only emissions are water vapor and a benign by-product, sodium silicate – a desirable energy solution that emits no greenhouse gases or toxic byproducts, from supply chain to application. And once the powder in a NaSi cartridge is depleted, both the cartridge and remaining material can be fully recycled. Carney adds:
“Our goal is to show that better chemicals can achieve the same, or better performance, using benign substances like water, instead of the more volatile materials that are currently used. This approach is proving not only to be better for the environment and human health, but it improves our customer’s bottom lines by saving them money, time and resources.”
Today many still regard hydrogen-powered energy as too expensive to be considered viable as an alternative fuel.
“We understand that if hydrogen energy is to be widely accepted, it must cost the same as or less than existing power alternatives,” Carney says. “Practically speaking, fuel cell replacements for applications with higher power demands, like automobiles, are a greater technical challenge and they will lag behind other fuel cell products. Unfortunately, the auto industry attempted to replace the combustion engine directly with fuel cells at the on-set of the fuel cell industry. This approach was simply not technically feasible; it would have been like trying to build a Pentium chip back in the 1950s when the transistor was first invented.”
Moving away from autos, Carney says that fuel cells have advanced to being commercially viable in many non-transportation markets.
“SiGNa’s market development approach focuses on building the demand for hydrogen energy in markets where NaSi fuel cells currently outperform existing technologies (i.e., batteries and small combustion engines). In these markets, NaSi fuel cells compete directly in both cost and energy performance and they are a viable solution for both product developers and consumers.”
Photos: SiGNa Chemistry