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America's Next Top Energy Innovator Runner-Up Presents Hydrogen Detection Technologies (Text Version)

Below is the text version of the webinar titled "America's Next Top Energy Innovator Runner-Up Presents Hydrogen Detection Technology," originally presented on April 3, 2012. In addition to this text version of the audio, you can access the presentation slides and a recording of the webinar (WMV 48 MB).

Allison Aman:
Today's introduction is about Bill Hoagland. He is the chairman and chief executive officer. He is an internationally recognized expert in hydrogen technology and hydrogen safety. He managed the U.S. Department of Energy's research and development program on hydrogen energy from 1978 to 1994 while a senior staff member at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory here in Golden, Colorado. During his time here, he has been a well-known proponent of hydrogen energy and fuel cells and is the recipient of the NREL Outstanding Performance Award for his work on the hydrogen energy program.

Since 2004, he has been an operating agent in charge of the International Energy Agency's Hydrogen Implementing Agreement Activities on the Hydrogen Safety and International Collaboration of Hydrogen Safety Experts from more than 10 countries.

From 1999 to 2002, he was a business development officer at the Western Research Institute in Laramie, Wyoming, and Bill is the founding member and past director of the National Hydrogen Association and is founding chairman of Hydrogen 2008, an education non-profit corporation.

On that note, I am going to turn it over to Bill, today's speaker. Thanks, Bill.

Bill Hoagland:
Thank you, Alli. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk to you about our company and our technology. The basis for our technology goes back about 10 years, when I was involved with NREL and the hydrogen program. There was a lot of concern about hydrogen safety. On the way back from that I was talking to David Benson, who was the head of the materials research program at NREL at the time, and I said, "Geez, everybody's concerned about hydrogen safety. Why can't we just have a paint that changes color?" And Dave, through his background in chemochromic windows, indicated he thought he knew how to do that.

So that was the beginning. We formed our company in 2005 around this concept. Hydrogen has been called the link to renewable energy because, as you all know, hydrogen is a good storage medium for solar energy, which really only comes to Earth as heat and can be converted to electricity. It is a way of storing solar energy, and with the potential for hydrogen cars and so on in the future, we thought this was very worthwhile. I will talk a little bit about that again.

I am going to try to make this as interesting as possible, talk about some of the applications and some of the technologies, so here we go.

[Next Slide]

I am not going to go too much into the technology, but I do want to talk a little bit about the background for the technology and hydrogen sensing. Why low-cost distributed sensors? It makes sense, especially for hydrogen. We will talk about the technology, concepts and uses, which is what we're spending most of our time on right now. I will finish up by talking about some of the technical challenges we faced and some of the things we are working on to improve them.

[Next Slide]

Again, just a background. We incorporated in 2005 when our core patent was awarded. We immediately started a collaborative agreement with NREL because we are all former NREL people, we had a good relationship and actually had access to some of their materials, research laboratory, equipment, and facilities.

In 2007, we successfully completed a contract with NASA, who had some special applications that I will talk about in a minute. In 2011, NREL had been growing and space became a premium. They decommissioned the vacuum deposition equipment that we had been using for our thin films and they gave it to us on a long-term loan.

A few months ago, NREL offered to option three patents to us and we signed that option. Finally, in last December, we were named to compete in the DOE's America Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge competition, and we came in runner-up in that one.

[Next Slide]

This is the page for the competition. It shows early on the results. We were very popular. We came in very, very high in the public voting; however, the final selection was made by a panel of experts and the criteria are probably not as well-suited to us as some of the other companies. But we did very well and we were named runner-up in the competition.

[Next Slide]

Gas leak detection is becoming very, very important. It is a critical element in the safe manufacture, handling, and use of many industrial gases. The gas detection market, gas sensors, is over $700 million. The market is growing at around 3 to 6 percent per year and is served by more than 25 OEMs and hundreds of maintenance contractors. It is a very stable and mature market.

The global hydrogen market in 2010 was estimated at around 53 million metric tons, a very large market. About 12 percent of that was in the merchant hydrogen market, and that is growing at about 5 to 6 percent per year. An important issue now is there is a growing requirement due to increasing regulations, codes and standards, for gas leak detection. And they are being used in greater quantities than ever before, and of course, technology is always moving ahead and there are new ways and cheaper ways of detecting gas.

The refinery capacity has always been a premium and down time in the oil and gas industry is always costly. Keeping equipment running and minimizing downtime is probably the most important factor in knowing when a leak occurs and being able to evaluate it and deal with it in an orderly way.

Our gas sensors—very, very low-cost gas sensors—complement the electronic sensors because electronic sensors need to be calibrated every 90 days. Complementary, low-cost visual or wireless sensors can be maintained and replaced as needed at the same time. So that and the growing market, its potential use as a vehicle fuel in the growing market for fuel cells, that would quadruple the current hydrogen market.

[Next Slide]

This just shows the diversity of the market. There are about a dozen different market segments where hydrogen is used, the largest two being chemicals in the refining industry, but the size of those markets may not be the best indicator of the number of sensors required.

[Next Slide]

There have been a number of methods used to detect hydrogen leaks and this is a list of some of the ways. One way everyone knows is bubble testing using a product called Snoop, which is soapy water that you put on gas leaks, joints, and look for bubbles. That works for low pressures, it works for non-hazardous situations, but you cannot do that continuously, so it has its limitations.

The catalytic combustion, the thermal conductivity, they work well. They work on a heated combustion process. Electrochemical sensors have their applications. Mass spectrometers are probably the very best, most accurate way but obviously very expensive. And the same with gas chromatographs.

For ultrasonic leak detection, there are a number of products newly on the market right now and they basically listen for the sound of a leaking gas. Hydrogen is very well-suited to that because it has a very distinctive pitch when it leaks because of its very low density.

These work well and they cover large areas, but when you have a leak, you really do not know where to start looking for it in a plant area, so it has that limitation.

Glow plugs have been used in the past but not much anymore.

Semi-conducting oxide sensors are the ones that are used most commonly now, and it works well, but it does not work in inert atmospheres, and the performance degrades at low temperatures.

Those are some of the methods for leak detection, but not necessarily process control.

[Next Slide]

There are many classes and types of sensors. I will not bore you by going through all these, but the idea here is there have been a lot of different kinds of sensors, a lot of physical phenomena that have been the basis for these sensors. Look at the bottom category there. You will see that optical devices, colorimetric and indicator dyes have been used – that's litmus paper, etc.

So why would low-cost sensors such as ours be new?

[Next Slide]

Very large quantities of hydrogen are used in industry. It is hard to detect because of its physical properties. It is difficult to detect a leak when that does occur. It is a large commodity. I think the reason for the heightened interest right now has been the recent decade or two where hydrogen has been considered as a consumer fuel. And people are not really sure about the use of hydrogen at self-serve dispensing stations and so on.

[Next Slide]

What makes hydrogen different? Well, hydrogen gas, as you see, is colorless, odorless, and it is the smallest molecule; it tends to leak through many joints and even many materials. It has a very, very low ignition energy, and will ignite, sometimes even spontaneously, when a high-pressure joint leaks.

The flame is invisible. One of the famous tests for hydrogen leaks is the broom test, where you simply put a broom out near a leaking joint or any place you suspect might be a leak. You can see the broom flames, but you do not see the leak. Hydrogen is of interest because it has a very, very high energy content, two or three times that of gasoline by weight.

The other thing that makes this very problematic is it is difficult to detect. A hydrogen leak and hydrogen gas will disperse very rapidly. It is lighter than air, it rises, and so you really cannot be very far away from a hydrogen leak and have any confidence that you are going to see it. So while the fact that it disperses very rapidly is in some ways good for enhancing safety, it still makes it a little harder to detect.

[Next Slide]

I said we had a project at NASA. It was a very interesting project for us. NASA has, as you know, a very large facility down at the Kennedy Space Center. Here you see two pictures: one of their 800,000-gallon liquid hydrogen tank in the picture on top, where you see the space shuttle launch platform in the background. And in the picture on the bottom, which was taken from the launch platform, you see the one-quarter-mile liquid hydrogen pipeline.

What made this an interesting challenge is that the whole area was evacuated when they charge the shuttle with liquid hydrogen, so nobody was there anywhere in the area. Our visual sensor would not be of much value because before they went back in, they purged the entire pipeline with helium, and then they would like to know if anything had leaked while hydrogen had been in it. So they asked us about coming up with some type of visual sensor that would be non-reversible.

[Next Slide]

We worked on that. This shows some of the hydrogen sensors, and you can get a feel for the fact that a hydrogen sensor, depending on wind direction, etc., may never see a hydrogen leak, or if it did, you would have trouble knowing where to start looking for it.

[Next Slide]

We did develop a reversible hydrogen sensor and came up with some of these desirable characteristics for a sensor, but it was very expensive. They could be used at all potential leak sites; you would not have to worry about a second tier of investigation to determine the exact source of the leak.

One of the unique things about our low-cost sensor is it gives a positive indication of both the absence of hydrogen as well as the presence of hydrogen. It is a chemical-driven reaction, or sensor, and it will give you just as positive an indication that there is no hydrogen as there is.

Rapid response, specificity to hydrogen, and sensitivity are all standard measures of measuring sensors. A long use of life is an economic thing. The last one is kind of unique: when you have a hydrogen sensor, or any gas sensor, you usually have other electronics to convert the sensor signal to something that the human senses can detect. For an electronic sensor, you would have a sensor, a transducer, and then maybe a bell or a buzzer or something like that.

But a simpler system would be the one where the sensor itself was detectable by human senses. And the two that have been looked at have been color-changing systems and odorants, odorants such as you see in natural gas to detect a leak. However, because these odorants are also generally toxic to fuel cells, it is not a good solution for hydrogen.

[Next Slide]

DOE has recognized the value of distributed visual leak detectors. Here you see two statements from past DOE documents, which frankly had a big part in why we started working on this. The multi-year plan for 2003 to 2010 had the statement, for example, that coatings that change color on exposure to hydrogen can provide immediate visual evidence of a leak. Low-cost sensors were declared a critical research topic in previous years.

[Next Slide]

There are a number of precedents for visual detection of gases in liquids. On the top here, you see something that really gave me the idea for this kind of sensor. It is a carbon monoxide sensor that pilots put on the inside of the airplane cabin, and it will turn dark if there is a buildup of carbon monoxide in the cabin.

Today, as technology improves, they now have electronic sensors in aircraft cabins. However, most pilots I think still use the visual detector as a backup because it is so cheap and convenient.

On the bottom, you see an acid detecting paint that indicates the pH of leaking acid, which allows you to see visually whether a joint is leaking. This is something that is used widely in refineries in gas plants right now. You do not have to repaint after this; you can put a neutralizing solution on it and it goes back to its original color. Therefore, there are precedents.

[Next Slide]

What has Element One done? Element One has created smart coatings for the detection of hydrogen. It changed color; we can do it either reversibly or non-reversibly. The advantage of this is that it provides both the current situation and historical information about leaks. It makes it possible to produce a very wide array of low-cost, reliable sensors that can be economically deployed. I am talking mostly about hydrogen, but this whole concept extends to any gas detection scheme in industry and we have extended this technology to hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and chlorine, and as we move ahead, we will develop those products as well.

[Next Slide]

There are a lot of words here. A word here I want to describe is chemochromic. Chemochromic is a chemically-driven reaction affecting a color change. We used to call them "smart coatings"; that is a little cliché these days. But they can change the hazardous gas safety paradigm by giving you information about an incipient leak before it really is a safety hazard, and it can be evaluated and perhaps scheduled for repair or maintenance in a routine measure rather than requiring a system shutdown. We see these as supplementing the electronic sensors, and being able to give you more information about exactly where a leak is.

[Next Slide]

I am going to try something here to show a video; we will see if I can.

[Embedded Video]

This video shows our thin-film sensor. You can see it is a mixture of 10 percent hydrogen and nitrogen passing over Element One's reversible thin-film sensor. This is in real time. If I had this full screen, you could actually see the wafting of the gas over it.

The benefits are as you see here. Indicate the absence of hydrogen just as positively as the presence. The sensitivity of this is down to about 0.04 percent, which is 1/100 of the lower flammability limit. This detector is safe because it does not require any power supply, which is convenient. There are many, many possible applications, and we have identified a number that have actually come to us through inquiries. We are also looking at using this now because this coating, as it changes, the thin film experiences a change in resistance of several orders of magnitude. We have integrated this into a wireless sensor as well.

[Next Slide]

The chemochromic reaction is as you see here. The equation you see here is for tungsten oxide. We have done this with a number of transition metal oxides, catalyzed reaction, and on the bottom you see two samples of our coating, where a small chip of the coating has been exposed to hydrogen and is overlaid over the original; you can see there can be quite a dramatic contrast for a visual effect.

[Next Slide]

I would like to just go through some of the research results that we have. It is a first order equation; we think that it is the sum of two reactions due to material transfer inside the coating. But it looks like it works very well over a period of seconds; this is for our coating.

[Next Slide]

The response is proportional to the square root of the hydrogen concentration. You see that it is still very, very fast, down to a couple of percent.

[Next Slide]

The response does become slower and slower as the concentration is decreased; we feel like we have a lower limit of about 300 parts per million in air as a useful—we see no reason to try to improve on this. It seems to be fine for most of the applications that have been identified to us.

[Next Slide]

For the temperature dependence of the response speed, we see a different reaction rate occur at around 15 degrees Celsius. We suspect that it is due to the fact that the equation that you looked at earlier produces water in the color change, and at 15 degrees Celsius, we think that is about the dew point. A layer of water is building up on the sensor and slowing it down.

[Next Slide]

This slide shows that we have used a thin silicone protective coating on our thin films we are testing at NASA. It was exposed to very harsh conditions for almost a month and experienced about a 25 percent reduction in speed of response, which we think was still very good.

[Next Slide]

We have also tested our thin film as a RFID sensor for wireless. We see no change in the response of the sensor due to repeated exposures to hydrogen concentrations of essentially 100 percent. A lot of sensors you do see it affect.

[Next Slide]

Our research has taken two directions. We are developing thin films that both change color and resistance for use in wireless sensors, and, down at the bottom, that is the top schematic there where we have a multi-layer thin film. It includes transition metal oxide, discontinuous catalyst, and a hydrogen selective and protective membrane. We have also produced pigments as synthesized nanoparticles where we combine, in a proprietary way, our nano power transition metal oxide activated catalytically with a catalyst such as platinum. We have used a couple of different catalysts. This is the largest cost element of the coating.

[Next Slide]

The comparison of the two approaches we have taken will mean that pigments and coatings will have better applications and thin films will have better applications, but you see a summary of the differences.

Pigment coatings are slow response; thin films can be very fast. Pigments are easier and cheaper to produce in small quantities; thin films require vacuum deposition processes, which also can be quite cheap in large commercial processes. Visual indication versus the resistance change incorporated into paints or inks compared to the multi-layer deposition process.

The next one is one that we are dealing with specifically: more and less material used per unit area; thin films use much less material and therefore we can use more expensive materials. Of course, there are some durability differences.

[Next Slide]

So coatings—I just wanted to show you we can bury the reversibility of the coating, and this test you see here shows three different coatings. One is a 24-hour reversibility and the other one is a one- to two-hour reversibility. The one at the bottom is a non-reversible coating.

[Next Slide]

This is a test that shows at zero hours, right after they have been exposed to hydrogen, and in roughly one hour you see they lighten accordingly. After four hours, the one-hour coating is totally bleached out and the 24-hour coating is about halfway there. In the last one, it is again a progression. Note that the one on the bottom is unchanged and will remain unchanged for a very long time.

[Next Slide]

The mechanism is probably—I don't need to go into it—but it basically is a polymer coating with a reactive pigment, and the reaction produces a very, very dark-colored segment, and there are a number of different products we can incorporate this into…

[Next Slide]

…such as hydrogen gas leak indicators in piping systems and refineries. You see here two flange covers, which were originally produced for physical protection on steam lines and for spraying liquids; they then put in clear windows as you see here, either all the way around or in a window that would give you an indication of a liquid leak. We are now working with a couple of manufacturers to incorporate our color changing system into this for gas leak detection, something fairly new. And of course, we have our coatings, which can be sprayed on for leak detection anywhere you want.

[Next Slide]

Okay, this is a test you can see. We had a mock-up of a leak indicator. You can see that after 20 minutes, there is quite a visual change. This was a very, very small leak, 0.004 moles per second. This color change was a 20-minute test, but if you look at the time sequence, you can see that most of the color change occurred in minutes.

[Next Slide]

Sorry for the quality of this. You see that it shows a visual leak in a compression joint. We have also done indicating wraps with a coating on the inside of the tape. You can see on the left that we have done an intentional leak with the wrap; it is a very visible, very easy way for checking for leaks in these things.

[Next Slide]

We have also done a conformable wrap as a heat shrink, something that could be used to encapsulate equipment valves or materials. We think this could have application for things like tanks and so on.

[Next Slide]

I will not show you this video, but we have done the shrink wrap. We had a hole that was so small in this tank that it would not even produce a bubble and yet, as you can see in the tank on the left, it produced a dramatic color change, which would be quite easy to see.

[Next Slide]

Addison Vein took some decals and has done demonstrations with them in his garage. The interesting thing here is this is a thin film. We had no data about the useful life, but he said that it worked very well, just slowly degraded over a period of years, which we were quite happy to see.

We also can take our coatings and make paint markers, felt tips pens, inks and so on. That is in the future for us, though.

[Next Slide]

What we are really interested in is a low-cost, wireless sensor because there are a lot of people who think that this is the wave of the future; the answer is to have a system where you can have a passive RFID tag that requires no power supply and that can be produced for a few dollars apiece. In a wireless setting, each additional point would only cost you a few dollars.

[Next Slide]

The world's first passive wireless tag workshop was held last July in Houston. Dave Lafferty of BP's Chief Technology Office made the statement that passive wireless sensors could save BP more than $50 million a year. In the bottom is another quote that explains that, where their sensor costs can be upwards of $10,000 each to install if the electrical power and supply cost is included in them.

[Next Slide]

We worked with a company called Mojix who has a new RFID technology, very long-range, and it was developed for offshore technology rigs in asset tracking. They can actually extend the range up to 700 or 800 meters I believe. What is different about them is they put these eNode transmitters in, which basically they have a long-range receiver they put in an eNode transmitter, they call it an exciter, which excites a passive infrared tag which then can be transmitted all the way back.

Each tag then is passive; it does not require a power supply, and once you have your network of eNodes in there, each additional point can be very, very inexpensive.

This is a prototype of RFID sensor. We have only produced one and it worked very well. We think that this may have application to hydrogen in industry; it could have application in hydrogen dispensing stations, automobiles and so on. Basically, it is the combination of a gas sensor, an RFID tag, and a long-range antenna. You see that these flange shields, which we are working on now with a manufacturer to develop a product, can take advantage of this large surface area for a long-range antenna. We would like to do more testing on this, but we have to work with the manufacturer on that.

[Next Slide]

Someone in industry has indicated they would love to have little bonnets to put over cylinders that would indicate if that cylinder had been leaking, and that would be an easy application for ours.

[Next Slide]

Dave Benson, our chief technology officer, went to Japan. He visited a hydrogen dispensing station and he was quite surprised that they continually checked for leaks while they were refueling the vehicle. They did this inside the dispensing station, the hose, everywhere. He saw an immediate application for our sensor there.

[Next Slide]

If we ever do realize hydrogen vehicles, having these sensors would be very useful in checking for hydrogen system integrity at accident scenes. We see this as a possible application. Obviously, that industry has to tell us if it is worthwhile.

[Next Slide]

We already have a license with a company who has found that our sensor can be used in diagnostic test kits for the most common STD infection of humans. There are 180 million new cases a year, many in less developed countries, and their current test kit required a microscopic examination of the culture every 24 hours. You drop a chip of our indicator in there and it will change color with 100 percent correlation.

They have also found that this particular STD is a precursor for AIDS and they are doing testing on it in a number of countries right now.

[Next Slide]

Contaminated drywall has been an issue in past years. Contaminated drywall emits hydrogen sulfide. We think our hydrogen sulfide sensor as a decal could be put on nearly every piece of new drywall to ensure that it was not contaminated or for radon testing of homes when they change ownership.

[Next Slide]

We also found that our sensor could be used to indicate adequate irradiation of drinking water in countries where they found that if water sources are exposed to sunlight, bright sunlight for six to eight hours, they become drinkable. Not pure, but drinkable. We think our indicator might help us there.

[Next Slide]

More potential applications are protective coatings for fuel cells. A company in Israel is producing zinc air batteries and has used our indicator to measure for degradation of the battery before it is delivered to the Army.

There are applications for nuclear waste monitoring and solar energy systems, particularly for wind and PV. A company is looking at using our sensors to indicate any breakdown of transformer oil; this could be like a dipstick that would show that there is some dissolved hydrogen in the oil.

Portable power units—NASA and some other people are looking at hydrogen fuel cell portable power units, and if they are portable, they get moved around and jostled, and NASA would like to ensure that no leaks have sprung up.

Hydrogen in mines has been of interest. We are involved in a proposal in Canada right now for a hydrogen mine introduction.

Food products—a company came to us and had found with some research—they are in a medical school—that dissolved hydrogen, ingested into the body, has some unique health effects. There is a lot of new research on that right now. They wanted to know if our indicator could be incorporated into the packaging to ensure that the hydrogen was still in there to ensure the customer that they were getting what they were paying for. They are working on that now and the test has been pretty good.

As you know, hydrogen is used in power plants for cooling.

Somebody is also looking at using our sensor now to check for hydrogen sulfide in ground water.

We have had many inquiries, much more than we can possible address right now.

[Next Slide]

So I will talk just a minute now about our technical challenges. The thing we are working on right now is we need to improve the UV and chemical resistance of pigments; we're trying to get some field testing. We have a small contract now with Sandia National Laboratory to do some field testing of these things. We need to optimize the pigment/catalyst loading because that is obviously a very large cost factor and we are trying to balance the performance and rate of response with the amount of pigment and catalyst we need.

We also need to understand a little better the factors affecting the speed of response, reversibility and sensitivity. We have a lot of data, but we need to get more.

Refineries have asked about using this in high temperature service in their hydrotreaters, etc. We think we can develop a coating that satisfies the high temperature requirement. Our pigment does fine at the elevated temperature, but the paint vehicles…we need to develop those yet.

Fast-drying formulations for spray indicators and leak checks—low VOC is always of interest. A big thing would be to incorporate our pigments into inks where they could be used to print indicators and signs. The biggest thing is understanding applications and the requirements for our sensors, and we'll get to that with some more field testing.

[Next Slide]

Our thin films—again, optimization of the catalyst loading. Improve protective coatings so that these coatings survive and are more durable in the service that they are put into. We need to integrate these into RFID tags in partnership with the manufacturer. There are algorithms that we want to develop for interpretation of the wireless signals when you have multiple sensors; we think you can get more indication and information out of just one sensor. And of course, long-term laboratory and field testing of the most promising sensor designs.

[Next Slide]

Our priorities are to address those challenges I just mentioned and to continue with the field testing. We are in the process of occupying new laboratory facilities in setting up our thin-film fabricating equipment and our physical vapor deposition equipment that you see here. In addition, we need to continue doing the work to support our current patent and IP position.

[Next Slide]

In summary, we believe that extremely low-cost sensors for hydrogen, such as these new visual and thin-film sensors, can be abundantly deployed to provide previously unattained levels of confidence that hydrogen leaks will not go undetected. This will greatly reduce the potential for the loss of hydrogen and the formation of dangerous flammable clouds.

We think these sensors can be an invaluable tool for leak checking during construction, maintenance and repairs, and we think that when these sensors are integrated into the new generation of passive RFID networks, they can reduce the cost down to less than $10 per sensing point. Of course, this will extend the applicability of the sensors to new markets and uses and we are getting more and more inquiries from people about sensor applications that we had never dreamed of.

[Next Slide]

That is my summary. I guess there are some questions. Let me just see what I have got.

There is a question about what is the projected durability of the sensor in paint. Again, the durability is a function of the cost and the application and we have a whole range of products that have different durability requirements. I will say that we have some experience where sensors have been exposed and in service to a number of environments and they last much longer than we thought they did. Our plan is to make very low-cost sensors that can be changed and used prolifically.

I have a question about the projected cost per gallon of the product when it hits the market. If we are talking about our hydrogen-detecting coating, the largest cost of that is the catalyst, and it is going to be quite expensive right now, probably in the range of $600 to $700 per gallon. However, that covers an awful lot of square feet; we do not anticipate this as being a coating that you use to coat large items of equipment. As I said, one of our objectives was to optimize the pigment loading and catalyst loading and that of course is due to cost.

Those were the only two questions that I see right now, so unless there are…

Allison Aman:
We had two more submitted. I'll just ask you over the phone.

Someone asked do you have a commercial product today?

Bill Hoagland:
We have the coating that we think is a commercial product. We are trying to do more field testing; we are not sure of its performance in all applications. We would like to get some data under our belt in things like refineries and other places. However, I will respond that if somebody wants to test this coating, we would welcome partnering with them to test this in getting the data we need so we can verify its performance. If somebody wants some give me a call, we will talk about getting you some.

Allison Aman:
I do have a couple more questions. I will just ask you over the phone since they are being submitted last minute.

Is your sensor working in a humidity of 100 percent for a long time?

Bill Hoagland:
Yes. Yes, we see no reason why humidity would affect the coating. Our coating, the paint is really an industrial coating and it has the same durability that industrial coatings would have to humidity. So we do not think it would affect it very much at all.

Allison Aman:
Great. We have one more it looks like here.

Could you elaborate on the difference between pigment and thin-film modifications of the sensor?

Bill Hoagland:
As I said, our indicator is a transition metal oxide. We use things like tungsten oxide, molybdenum trioxide in the catalyst. The thin film is a vacuum deposition process put down in very, very, very small quantities and that requires a high-vacuum process, which we have gotten away from only because we have lost the capability for the last few months of using our thin-film deposition equipment.

The paint actually uses a pigment where we catalytically activate the tungsten metal oxide and put it into a paint carrier as a pigment and then it's basically small particles. So while you have the thin film you have layers of transition metal oxide and catalyst and a protective layer; the pigment itself is just small particles that can be incorporated into any carrier.

Anything else?

Allison Aman:
Bill we have a couple more and since we have a few more minutes, I will just ask you over the phone.

Are you ready right now to try this out at operating H2 fueling stations in California or elsewhere?

Bill Hoagland:
Yes we are.

Allison Aman:
Okay.

The wrap you showed for the cylinders, is that something that the manufacturer of the cylinder would have to apply or can the user apply it?

Bill Hoagland:
Either way. We think it is more logical that the cylinder manufacturer would put it on at the time of manufacture. As everybody probably knows with these new high-pressure tanks, the composite tanks, their failure mode is related to their seepage rate, which increases for a long time before they actually fail. We think that encapsulating a tank like that to monitor the seepage could be a very good measure of the tank health and it would be a good physical protection for chemicals in a vehicle, for instance.

Allison Aman:
Great. It looks like we have one more.

What about UV stability of pigments?

Bill Hoagland:
Well, as I said, that is one technical challenge that we have. Now when we are putting the pigments, the coating, on these piping flange covers we put it on the inside of a clear substrate, which is UV protective. We also now are looking at a number of formulations that would be UV protective, and one of the ways we are dealing with that is by using tungsten oxide, which is a reversible pigment. Basically, it might discolor a little bit in strong UV, but it will change right back and reset itself that way. That is something we need more data on and if anybody wants to work on that or get something to test with us, we would be happy to work with you.

Allison Aman:
Great. Well I think that wraps up the webinar. Thank you Bill. It was very interesting and I just love what you are doing with this product. On that note, these slides will be available; I know several of you asked. They will be available on our website as well as we have recorded today's webinar so you can rewatch the webinar as well.

And just something to keep in mind: we are going to start hosting these webinars the second Tuesday of every month so please check back on our website on a regular basis to see what the next series of webinars will be. We are hoping to advertise those a few weeks in advance. The next one will be Tuesday, May 8.

Thanks Bill and thank you everyone for attending today.

Bill Hoagland:
Thank you.

Allison Aman:
Bye bye.

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Content Last Updated: 07/27/2012