According to QuantumSphere, applications that could profit from retrofitted electrodes coated with its nanoparticles include making ammonia for fertilizer, making electrodes for batteries, and enhancing thermal reactions like those in the catalytic converters in a car's exhaust system.
"Whether it's electrolysis, fuel cells, batteries or catalytic converters, the more surface area you have, the higher the ability there is for those reactions to take place," said Rambach. "We can offer all these applications over a thousand percent increase in surface area simply by coating normal electrodes and membranes with our nanoparticles."
QuantumSphere's nanoparticle-coated electrodes can be used today to retrofit existing electrolyzers for higher efficiency, and the company plans to also offer retrofit nanoparticle-coated membranes for fuel cells and catalytic converters. In each device, the extra surface area can be used to boost the efficiency of the device, or to keep the efficiency constant while boosting the output. For example, QuantumSphere claims that at 85 percent efficiency, its nanoparticle-coated electrodes will increase hydrogen gas output in electrolysis systems by 300 percent.
"We are satisfying current market needs by supplying standard electrolysis plates coated with our nanoparticles that greatly improve their efficiency or output--you can have the same efficiency but with greater volume output, or higher efficiency at the same output level," said Rambach.
Today, the company claims that hundreds of millions of kilograms of hydrogen are produced annually at an average cost of $3 to $5 per kilogram, but that costs can be drastically cut just by switching to its nanoparticle-coated electrodes.
Batteries are also being targeted by QuantumSphere, which has a deal with a major battery manufacturer to offer zinc-air batteries later this year that outperform alkaline disposables by boosting power by 320 percent.
"We are launching a military-grade zinc-air disposable battery with one of the world's largest battery manufacturers this fall, with a consumer battery version due in January of 2009," said Maloney.
QuantumSphere currently manufactures nanoparticles of iron, silver, copper, nickel, cobalt and manganese, for users who want to formulate their own coatings. Its precoated stainless steel electrodes are only available coated with nanoscale nickel-iron.
QuantumSphere also recently acquired Energetics Inc., which plans to incorporate nanoparticles into its proprietary membrane technology for lithium-ion batteries.