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Oxygen Generator for Fuel Cells


Oxygen Generator Based on Nitrogen Adsorption from Air Using Natural Zeolites for Application in Fuel Cells

Tech Area / Field

  • NNE-MEC/Miscellaneous Energy Conversion/Non-Nuclear Energy
  • CHE-IND/Industrial Chemistry and Chemical Process Engineering/Chemistry

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
A.I. Alikhanyan National Science Laboratory, Armenia, Yerevan

Supporting institutes

  • SolarEn, LLC., Armenia, Yerevan


  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory, USA, CO, Golden

Project summary

In the frameworks of the Project it is proposed to develop and fabricate the oxygen generator, based on nitrogen selective adsorption from air, using natural zeolites from the deposits in Armenia (Noyemberyan district). The setup will be designed and assembled by joint efforts of scientist and engineers from Yerevan Physics Institute and SolarEn, LLC. Oxygen generators on the principle of selective adsorption, allowing up to 95% purity on-site oxygen production, are manufactured in some countries and are used in various areas, replacing heavy high pressure oxygen tanks.

The novelty of our approach is in application of modified natural zeolite – clinoptilolite, available in Armenia, which is much cheaper than commonly used synthetic zeolites. It is planned to sufficiently improve the setup economical and technical characteristics (cost, energy consumption, simplicity of design, purity of oxygen, high-speed operation) by using magnetic field system, optimal adsorbent treatment and optimal design. It is planned to use this setup for oxygen supply (instead of air) in very efficient renewable energy source - fuel cell (FC), characteristics of which are strongly influenced by the type (quality) of oxidizer. As we know, at the present time such setups are not yet used by FC major producers.

In YerPhI there is a high scientific and technical potential for solving some essential part of the proposed tasks. The group of scientists has a great experience in production of various gases (helium, oxygen, nitrogen), as well as in working with systems of air separation and vacuum equipment. There were developed cryogenic adsorption refrigerators for pumping of helium-3 and helium-4 vapors to obtain super low temperatures. The group has also necessary equipment facilities (workshops, machine tools, instrumentation) and experience in construction of mechanical devices and setups. Besides, the group has significant theoretical and experimental knowledge in magnetic system development and measurements.

The specialists in inorganic chemistry from SolarEn, LLC have studied physicochemical properties of zeolites within many years and developed on this base a series of useful materials such as catalysts and adsorbents. They have an equipped laboratory with necessary devices, chemicals and other means for performing zeolites chemical analysis and thermochemical treatment. It will be designed and fabricated the high precision setup for measuring adsorption characteristics of zeolite. The fuel cells and computerized testing system for monitoring fuel cell performance in combination with the oxygen generator are available in lab.

The work on Project includes following major tasks.

Zeolite treatment and activation to achieve optimal structure and adsorptive properties. It will be used various chemical analytical methods for revealing composition of zeolites samples, as well as spectroscopic technique for obtaining their structural properties. The study of adsorption/desorption properties of zeolites depending on air flow rate and pressure will be performed by means of highly sensitive microbalance developed by YerPhI group.

Design and fabrication of the mechanical system of oxygen generator. The optimal design of oxygen generator will be chosen according to the criteria of energy consumption, high-speed operation and separation degree relative to oxygen. The setup filled with modified zeolite will be fabricated and tested in real conditions with fuel cell stack.

Development of magnetic field system for enhancing oxygen output. The system of high gradient magnetic field will be constructed and installed into the setup for increasing the separation factor of oxygen due to its paramagnetic properties.

Testing the oxygen generator performances, particularly in combination with fuel cell. The developed oxygen generator will be used for oxygen supply into fuel cells. Their performances will be tested by special computerized testing system.

The results obtained during Project implementation will have not only scientific importance but also practical application, particularly for manufacturing of inexpensive, small size oxygen generators to be used in various fields of chemistry, industry and medicine. These generators will also meet commercial needs in domestic and international markets.

Proposed Project meets the ISTC status and is simulated by the necessity to create alternative jobs for scientist and engineers, who previously were involved in defense programs of the FSU.