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Introduction

Hydrogen fuel cell technology has come a long way in the one hundred and seventy
years since its inception. However, the future success of hydrogen fuel cells in the energy
marketplace hinges upon the development of low cost, highly active, and durable
electrocatalysts to drive the sluggish electrochemical reactions occurring on both the anode
and cathode ofthefuelcell.Ourcurrentrelianceonplatinum(Pt),andalloysofplatinumgroup
metals (PGM), hinder the economically viable commercialization of this incredibly powerful
technology, due to their high cost and rarity. We here at the Center for MicroEngineered
Materials (CMEM) have been key players in the design, synthesis, characterization, and
implementation of a novel class of electrocatalysts based on abundant and inexpensive
chemicalprecursorsknowninthefuelcellcommunityas PGMfreeelectrocatalysts,whichare
composedprimarilyofnitrogendopedgraphenelikestructuresandiron(Fe).

Just as the development of low cost electrocatalysts is the current bottleneck in


hydrogenfuelcellcommercialization,so toisourabilitytodesignandstudyourproposed,and
generally accepted, solution to the problem. In order tooptimize andstreamlineour catalyst
production capabilitieswe here at CMEMare proposing the developmentofasynthesisrobot
tocomplementourskilledworkforce.

This proposal details the current situation surrounding PGMfree electrocatalyst


development and highlights the serious lack ofvolume anddiversity ofcatalystproduction. It
offers a highly organized and scrupulous project plan as well as several contingency plans
shouldsomeaspect oftheplanrequireimprovement.AdditionallyitaddressesCMEMsunique
qualifications for executing the project, and quantifies the costs and benefits associatedwith
thesuccessoftheproject.

Should the Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable
Energys (EERE), Innovative Development in EnergyRelated Applied Sciences (IDEAS) grant
programconcur with CMEMastothe importance ofthis projectand resolve to move forward
withits implementation,weareconfidentthattheconstructionandutilizationofourproposed
synthesisrobotwill benefit not only ourselves,butalsothefuelcellcommunity,asawhole,as
weworktogethertowardcreatingacleanerenergyfutureforalllifeontheplanet.

CurrentSituation

The current lack of diversity and volume of PGMfree catalyst production is the main
problem we face in developing a detailed understanding of the mechanism by which these
powerful materials perform their impressive task. As a result, we are limitedinour abilityto
moveforwardinthedevelopmentofoptimalelectrocatalystsforcommercialproduction.

This lack ofvolume anddiversity isaconsequenceofseveraldisadvantageswhich,until


recently, CMEM has managed to operate in spite of. The most significant of these
disadvantages, and the one that contributes to all others, is the time consuming synthesis
processbywhichPGMfreeelectrocatalystareproduced.CurrentlyCMEMutilizestheSacrificial
Surface Support Method (SSM) to create open framed, self supported, carbonaceous
frameworks,wherein aselected organic precursor containingsufficientamountsof carbonand
nitrogen bonded together in a manner, which we have previously shown through empirical
studies areadvantageous to theformation ofelectrochemicallyactivesites,iscombinedwitha
mixture of amorphous and polycrystalline silica and Fe salt in an aqueous environment. The
resulting slurry is thendriedat85Cpriorto thoroughpulverizationoftheresultingsolid.The
pulverized powder is then subjected to a series of high temperature pyrolysis procedures at
nearly 1000C and acidic leaching to remove of the silica support. In all, the successful
execution of these multiple steps, within which, multiple parameters must be managed,
requiresovereighteenmanhourstocomplete.

Additional difficulties arise due to the lack of equipment available to the ten graduate
students andresearchfacultycurrentlyworkingonprojectsinvolvingtheproductionofcatalyst
materialviatheSSM.Ourcurrentsupplyofequipmentnumbers:

2workinghightemperaturefurnacesforpyrolysis
2workinglowtemperaturefurnacesfordrying
4stirplates
1ofeachspecialtygascylinderneededforpyrolysis
2fumehoodsneededforhandlingconcentratedacids
2potentiostatsforelectrochemicaltestingofresultingmaterials
1fuelcellteststationforfinalelectrochemicalanalysis

Although, students and faculty at CMEM have produced many breakthrough materials
utilizingthis equipment,sharingsaidequipmentovermultipleprojectsincreasestheamountof
timeittakestoproduceasufficientamountofcatalyticmaterialtooverfortyeightmanhours.

Finally, the simplest solution to the equipment problem would be to purchase additional
equipment. However, CMEM has just over 1500 sq. ft. of space available for all projects
involvingPGMfreecatalystsproductionwhichmustaccommodate:

5computermonitorsandharddrives
storageforalargelibraryofchemicals
deskspaceforstudents

workingbenchspaceforexperiments

In all, there is not enough space for the amount of equipment necessary to increase the
catalyst production rate to even half that of a labwithjustone synthesis robot.According to
our calculations one fully functional synthesis robot, capable of working around the clock on
multiple projects, in an automated fashion, would have the ability to increase our catalyst
productionrate nearlythreehundredfold. Itis for thisreason that ourgoalatCMEMisnotto
invest in additional space to house additional equipment, but
instead to invest our time and effort in the design, construction,
andimplementationofjustonesynthesisrobot.

Were CMEM to continuecatalystproduction, analysis, andfull


scale testing at its current rate, the ever increasing needforhigh
tech solutionstotheworldsenergycrisiswouldsurelyhamperany
advances which we are currently able to realize. This rate of
advancementwouldinturnshift attentionand funding awayfrom
this promising, greenenergy, technology in exchange for more
efficient, yet completely unsustainableoilbased energysolutions.
It is for this reason that CMEM isdedicated toincreasingcatalyst
production efficiency through the use of an automated synthesis
robot.

ProjectPlan

With the ultimate goal of designing and utilizing a synthesis robot to carry out the
1
aforementionedsynthetic procedure,whichhasmorethan proven itsworthtodate
, wehere
at CMEM have identified and mapped out a series of objectives to reach this goal. Each
objective is followed by a rigorous analysis of the steps needed to realize them, as well as
contingency plans, where necessary, should thesteps in each objectiverequire improvement.
Eachobjective, as wellastherespectivestepsneededtoachieve them,are explainedindetail
inthefollowingsection.

Objective1).Recruitthebuildteam.

Designing andbuildingtherobotwill requirethecollaborationofskilledindividualsand


teams from diverse scientific and engineering backgrounds. Principally, mechanical engineers
andcomputerscientistoperatinginthefieldofrobotics.

Step1).Committeeformation

A committee foranalyzingpotentialcollaboratorsandtheirrespectivecontributionswill
be assembledand composedoffacultyfromCMEM. Namely,PlamenAtanassov,Distinguished
Professor of Chemical and Biological engineering and Director of CMEM , Alexey Serov,
Associate Research Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Kateryna
Artyushkova,AssociateResearchProfessor,DepartmentofChemicalandBiologicalEngineering,

and myself Jonathan Gordon, Associate Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological
Engineering,andChemistryandChemicalBiology,AssistantdirectorofCMEM.

1. Thecommitteewillmeetbiweeklyfortwohoursduringthecourseoftheselection
processtodiscusspertinentinformation,fieldconcerns,andoffersuggestions.

2. Thecommitteewillultimatelyberesponsibleforvotingonallfinaldecisionsastothe
identityandresponsibilitiesofallcollaborators.

Step2).Designcriteriaforcollaboratorselection.

1. Committeememberswillcomposeacomprehensivesetofcriteriauponwhichpotential
collaboratorswill beselected.These criteriashouldinclude,butnotbelimitedto:awell
established track record ofcollaborationwithchemical engineeringineitheracademia
or industry, and prior involvement in the design and construction of similar robotics
systemsusedformanufacturing.

Step3).Initiateandfieldbidsfromeachofthemajorcollaboratorsofthebuild,i.e.,mechanical
engineeringandcomputerprograming.

1. Acomprehensivedocumentdetailingthespecificneedsfromeachsectorwillbe
composedbythereviewcommittee.

2. Alistofpotentialcollaboratorsagreeduponbyallmembersofthecommitteewillbe
created.

3. Potentialcollaboratorswillbeformallycontactedandaskedtoparticipateinthebidding
process.

4. Onlyafterthedeadlineforsubmissionofbidshaspassedwillthereviewcommittee
meettoanalyzeanddiscussthequalificationsandcapabilitiesofpotentialcollaborators
basedontheirrespectiveproposals.

5. Finaldecisionswillbemadetwoweeksafterallbidshavebeenthoroughlyanalyzedby
thecommitteeinordertogivethecommitteememberstimetoexploreanyconcerns
theymayhaveaboutpotentialcollaborators.

6. Contingency
:shouldthesituationarisewhereinaconsensuscannotbereachedasto
thefinalselectionofcollaborators,anadditionaltwoweeksandaminimumoftwo
additionalreviewcommitteemeetingswillbeheldandfinaldecisionswillbegivento
themajorityvoteofthecommittee.

Objective2).Purchasematerialsandinvestincomputerprogramdevelopment

Step1).Materialrequisitionmanagerswillbeappointedfromeachofthethreeteams,
i.e.,CMEM,MechanicalEngineering,ComputerScience.

1. Material requisition managers will be appointed by their respective teams andwill be


responsibleforoverseeingany,andall,expendituresastheypertaintotheproject.

2. Managers will also beresponsiblefor providingdetailedaccounting ofallpurchases to


boththeheadprojectmanager(myself),aswellastheDOEgrantoversightcommittee.

3. Managers will need to ensure that continued manufacture/supply of material can be


guaranteedfortheforeseeablefuturetoavoidcostlydelaysinmaterialrequisition.

4. Safeguard:
toensurethattheprojectdoesnothingeuponthedeliveryof
material from a particular supplier, a minimum of three alternative suppliers will be
securedbythematerialrequisitionmanager.

Step2).Acomprehensivelistofmaterialswillbecomposed.

1. Material requisition managers will be responsible for composing and updating a


comprehensivelistofmaterials.

2. List of materials together with expenditures will beprovidedto the reviewcommittee


andtheDOE.

3. Updates to these lists and any adjustments to the budget as a result will need to be
approvedbythereviewcommittee.

Objective3).Buildandtesttherobot.

Step1).Assembleprimarycomponents:

Hightemperaturefurnacecontrols
Massflowcontrollers
Autosampler
Reactionapparatus
Controlarms
Operatorinterface

Step2).Integrateandtestprimarycomponentfunctionalityandcommunication

1. Each of the 6 main components will need to communicatewith one another,without


glitchesorbugs,toensurereproducibilityoftheresultingcatalyticmaterials.

2. Atthis stage,representativesfrom each teamwill need tobe physicallypresent.Travel


expenseshavebeenassessedandappearinthebudget.


Step3).Finalassembly

1. Finalassemblyisprojectedtotakeplaceoneyearfollowingtherecruitmentofthebuild
team.

2. Allrespectivecomponentswillneedtobegatheredinacentrallocation.

3. WorkspacewillbeprovidedbytheUNMdepartmentofManufacturingEngineering.

Step4).Diagnostictesting

1. CMEMstudentsandfacultywillrunaseriesofreproducibilityandefficiencyteststo
comparetheproductsoftheroboticsynthesistopreviouslyobtaineddataforamodel
catalystsystem.

2. Contingency
:shouldtherobotfailtoexecutesyntheticproceduresatornearthe
desiredrate,allmembersofthebuildteamwillmeettoidentify,discuss,andplan
solutions.

Qualifications

CMEM, as part of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, at the


UniversityofNewMexico, has remainedakeyplayerinthe growingfieldofhydrogenfuelcell
technology, both in terms of the design, synthesis, and implementation of electrocatalytic
materialsinto workingfuelcellsystems,aswellas thedesignandoptimizationofsaidsystems,
for over a decade. During this time, CMEM has trained over two hundred graduate and
postdoctoral students, published over two thousandacademic papers, patentednearlyeighty
novel materials and scientific processes, and collaborated with some of the worlds leading
scientists and engineers on breakthrough scientific research and development projects. The
prolific nature of our accomplishments coupled with our ability and desire to collaborate,
placesCMEM in the strategic positionforgrowth,which wefeel confidenthasthepotentialto
arise through investmentinour proposedsynthesisrobotfollowingfinancialinvestmentbythe
DOEsEEREIDEASgrantprogram.

Collaboration has been a hallmark of CMEMs dedication to furthering the scientific


enterprise that is thefuel cellresearchcommunitysinceitsinception.Additionally,thelistof
successful collaborations with whom CMEM hasparticipated,and in manycases initiatedand
lead, extend beyond the academicenvironment toinclude powerfulindustry partnerssuch as
Daihatsu MotorCo.,Ltdtheoldestcarmanufacturer inJapanandasubsidiaryofToyotaMotor
Co., and Pajarito Powderastartupcompany responsible for thecommercializationoffuelcell
catalyst technology developed at CMEM, as well as significant collaborations with US
governmentnationallabssuchasLosAlamos,Argonne,andSandiaNationallabs.WeatCMEM
are confident that ourprior experienceandleadershipcapabilities,asthey pertaintoacademic

and industrial collaborations, more than qualify us to initiate the highly collaborative project
thatisthetopicofthisproposal.

Costs

The totalcost ofconstructionoftheproposedsynthesisrobotisestimatedat$500,000.


Each of theindividualcostswas calculatedso as toalignwiththefundsbeingrequested from
the DOE, EERE IDEAS grantprogram.Anyadditional expenses relatedtothe proposed project
will be charged to existing funding from the DOE, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and
DaihatsuMotorCo.,Ltd.repositories.Seethebudgetbelowfordetails.

Budget

Title

Description

InKind

TotalCost

JonathanGordon

Payforservices
renderedasproject
coordinator.
Payforservices
renderedasreview
committeememberand
technicalconsultant.
Payforservices
renderedasreview
committeememberand
technicalconsultant.
Payforservices
renderedasreview
committeememberand
technicalconsultant.
Payforservices
renderedintermsof
robothardware
constructionand
integration.
Payforservices
renderedintermsof
robotoperatingsystem
designandintegration.
Constructionofthe
robotwillrequirea
physicalpresencefrom
anunknownnumberof
METandCSTteam
membersandtheir
respectivecomponents
forthebuild.

$100,000salary

$2,000

$150,000salary

$20,000

$125,000salary

$20,000

$125,000

$20,000

Estimatedvalueof
equipmentand
workspace:$1.5million

$75,000

Estimatedvalueof
equipmentandwork
space:$750,000

$75,000

NA

Estimated$5,000

PlamenAtanassov

AlexeySerov

KaterynaArtyushkova

MechanicalEngineering
Team(MET)

ComputerScienceTeam
(CST)

Travelandmaterial
transport

Materials
Materialrequisition
manager(MET)

Materialrequisition
manager(CST)

Materialrequisition
manager(CMEM)

2
DOE

BillandMelindaGates
3
Foundation

DaihatsuMotorCo.,
4,5
Ltd.

SeeObjective3),Step1)
oftheprojectplan.
Payforservices
renderedintermsof
securing,purchasing,
andcatalogingrequired
materialsassociated
withtheMETbuild
responsibilities.
Payforservices
renderedintermsof
securing,purchasing,
andcatalogingrequired
materialsassociated
withtheCST
programing
responsibilities.
Payforservices
renderedintermsof
securing,purchasing,
andcatalogingrequired
materialsassociated
withtheCMEMbuild
responsibilities.
FuelCellTechnologies
Incubator:Innovations
inFuelCelland
HydrogenFuel
Technologies
Toinvestigatethe
capabilitiesofmicrobial
bioelectrochemical
systemswhichcanplay
acentralroleinwater
qualityandsanitation
management
JointUNMDaihatsufuel
celldevelopment

NA

Estimated$250,000

NA

$5,000

NA

$5,000

NA

$5,000

$1millionperyearfor
fouryears

None

$450,000

None

$1million

None

Benefits

CMEMhascalculated theaddedbenefitofaddingjustonesynthesis robottoourteam


of skilled scientists andengineers workinginthefield of hydrogen fuel cell developmenttobe
equal to that of hiring an additional fifty graduate students working around the clock with
constantaccesstoequipmentandmaterials.Indoing so,theforecastedincreaseinproductivity
is over three hundred fold. The additional capabilities made possible by the successful
completion of the proposed project will afford more timeforstudents andfacultytoanalyze

and improve existing experimental techniques and evaluation of catalytic materials.


Additionally,thisincreasedproductivitywillsupplyanunprecedentedamountofscientificdata,
which will be used to further elucidate the complex mechanisms which govern the mode of
action oftheseincrediblecatalytic materials.Finally,itis highly likelythatothersinthefieldof
fuel cell development and catalytic research will find the capabilities made possible by our
robot valuable for their own research effortsopening the door for commercialization of our
robotdesign.

On a global scale, the exponential growth of knowledge which


will be realized through the use of the proposed synthesis robot will,
undoubtedly, encourageinvestorsfromtheenergymarkettolookmore
closely at the capabilities of hydrogen fuel cells to provide power for
various energy demanding tasks and as such a shift in the current
energyconsumptionparadigmislikely tooccur.Inthisrespect,justone
robot is capable of turning the tide oftheenergy marketplace, reduce
our reliance onfossil fuels, and,inturn,lead thewaytowardacleaner
energyfuture.

Conclusion

Throughout the course of this proposal, the necessity for the development of
inexpensive, highly active, and durable electrocatalytic materials has been illustrated, the
benefitsof introducinganautomatedroboticsystemintothecatalyticmaterialsresearcharena
explainedandquantified, andthequalificationspossessedby CMEMtorealizethegoalsofthe
project put forth. In order to realize thetremendous benefits ofthis project,toboth thefuel
cellcommunityand the planetas a whole,it isessential thatCMEMcollaborate withqualified
investors such as theDOEEEREIDEAS grantprogram.It is withgreat honor that weatCMEM
submit to you this formal proposal, and with an optimistic vision for the futurethatwe look
forwardtoyourthoughtfulresponse.

BestRegards,

Dr.JonathanP.Gordon

AssociateProfessorofChemistryandChemicalBiology
andChemicalandBiologicalEngineering,
AssistantDirectorCenterforMicroEngineeredMaterials(CMEM)
MSC042790,1001UniversityBlvd.SE
Suite103Albuquerque,NM87106
Email:jgordon7@unm.edu

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Reaction.
ChemicalReviews
116.6(2016):35943657.
CrossRef
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FundingOpportunitytoSupportInnovationsinFuelCellandHydrogenFuel

Technologies.
Energy.gov
.N.p.,n.d.Web.13Apr.2016.

3. OPP1139954.
Bill&MelindaGatesFoundation
.N.p.,n.d.Web.13Apr.2016.

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MotorsWinsTop10InnovationAwardatICEFConferenceinJapan|Welcome

toSTC.UNM.N.p.,n.d.Web.13Apr.2016.

5. Writer,KevinRobinsonAvila|JournalStaff.UNMFuelCellTechnologyHonoredin

Japan.N.p.,n.d.Web.13Apr.2016.

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http://www.integratedlabsolutions.com/industriesserved/polymers/systems/mo

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