(19)
(11)EP 2 406 174 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
05.08.2020 Bulletin 2020/32

(21)Application number: 10751253.5

(22)Date of filing:  09.03.2010
(51)Int. Cl.: 
C01B 3/08  (2006.01)
C01B 3/10  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/US2010/026585
(87)International publication number:
WO 2010/104807 (16.09.2010 Gazette  2010/37)

(54)

CARTRIDGE FOR THE GENERATION OF HYDROGEN

PATRONE FÜR DIE ERZEUGUNG VON WASSERSTOFF

CARTOUCHE DESTINÉE À LA GÉNÉRATION D'HYDROGÈNE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 11.03.2009 US 401651

(43)Date of publication of application:
18.01.2012 Bulletin 2012/03

(73)Proprietor: Advanced Hydrogen Technologies Corporation
Morganton, NC 28680 (US)

(72)Inventor:
  • LOHR, Peter, James, Sr
    Morganton NC 28680 (US)

(74)Representative: Müller-Boré & Partner Patentanwälte PartG mbB 
Friedenheimer Brücke 21
80639 München
80639 München (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
WO-A1-2009/028143
US-A- 5 143 047
US-A1- 2004 214 056
US-A1- 2006 210 470
US-B2- 6 989 210
US-A- 5 052 272
US-A- 5 634 341
US-A1- 2005 258 159
US-B1- 6 849 247
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    Field of the Invention



    [0001] The invention relates generally to the generation of hydrogen and specifically to a cartridge for the generation of hydrogen.

    Background of the Invention



    [0002] Hydrogen can be used as a source of energy in many hydrogen-consuming systems such as fuel cells, internal combustion engines, and portable power equipment and tools. Devices that consume hydrogen for energy must be connected to a source for hydrogen such as those that directly utilize hydrogen in either liquid or gaseous form and those that utilize hydrogen in chemical compounds such as water. Some of the systems that store such chemically bonded hydrogen utilize a cartridge for containing the water along with other components. When hydrogen is stored in chemical compounds such as water, it must be converted to consumable hydrogen by a reaction prior to use as hydrogen.

    [0003] One conventional process for releasing bonded hydrogen from water is electrolysis. During electrolysis, an electrical differential is applied to water at a cathode and an anode, and an advantage of this system is that a low voltage of electricity can be used. Another reaction to release hydrogen from water is that of aluminum and water to generate aluminum oxide and hydrogen gas. US 5 052 272 discloses such a cartridge. This reaction can be self sustaining, but it requires high temperatures to generate substantial hydrogen production. One way to do this is by heating aluminum and water that are in close proximity with thermite, but most conventional systems for igniting the thermite require a high voltage differential.

    [0004] Therefore, one problem with such cartridges is that high voltages are required to initiate the reaction. Another problem with cartridges configured to generate hydrogen through the reaction of a metal with an oxidizing agent is that the reaction can proceed prematurely because of contact between the reactants. Another problem is that structure utilized to form the cartridge and to contain the reactants remains as waste after the cartridge is used. Another problem is that the cost of conventional cartridges is too high to allow for economical one-time use, i.e. conventional cartridges are not expendable.

    Summary of the Invention



    [0005] The present invention provides a cartridge for the rapid generation of hydrogen very rapidly in response to demand, at high pressures, and at high temperatures. The cartridge includes consumable structural components such that solid waste remaining after discharge of a cartridge is minimized. In addition, the cartridge of the present invention is configured for use in a system that provides hydrogen at a generally constant pressure.

    [0006] According to one embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a cartridge for the generation of hydrogen. The cartridge includes a case, an igniter, and a structural component. The case defines an interior cavity and the igniter is positioned within the cavity. The structural component is also positioned within the cavity and is formed of a particulate embedded in a matrix and the particulate includes a metallic material. An oxidizing agent is positioned within the cavity, wherein the oxidizing agent is water. The matrix of the structural component includes at least one member selected from the group consisting of nitrocellulose, dextrin, guar gum, gum Arabic, shellac, and synthetic organic polymers, and is configured to be impermeable to water so that the metallic material is isolated from the water. The igniter is configured to generate a temperature that is between 1371 °C (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit) and 3316°C (6,000 degrees Fahrenheit) so as to remove the matrix from the structural component such that the metallic material is no longer isolated from water and to initiate a reaction between the metallic material and the oxidizing agent to generate hydrogen.

    [0007] According to one aspect of the present invention, the structural component configured to generally maintain the position of the igniter relative to the case.

    [0008] According to one aspect of the present invention, the structural component is also configured to define a plurality of chambers within the cavity and the oxidizing agent is positioned within the plurality of chambers.

    [0009] According to one aspect of the present invention, the matrix includes nitrocellulose.

    [0010] According to one aspect of the present invention, the case is also formed of the particulate embedded in the matrix.

    [0011] According to one aspect of the present invention, the igniter includes thermite.

    [0012] According to one aspect of the present invention, the water is gelatinized.

    [0013] According to one aspect of the present invention, the metallic material includes aluminum.

    [0014] According to one aspect of the present invention, an electrical element is positioned within the igniter and is electrically connected with an exterior surface of the case.

    [0015] According to one aspect of the present invention, the igniter is configured to ignite when a voltage is applied to the electrical element and the igniter is configured to generate sufficient heat such that at a least a portion of the matrix is removed from the structural component thereby exposing sufficient metallic material to the oxidizing agent at a sufficiently high temperature to initiate a chemical reaction between the oxidizing agent and the metallic material thereby generating hydrogen.

    [0016] According to one aspect of the present invention, the case includes a metallic cap that is electrically connected to the electrical element such that the cap forms part of an electrical circuit when the voltage is applied to the electrical element.

    [0017] According to one aspect of the present invention, the cap is configured to rupture such that an opening is defined through the cap for the release of hydrogen therethrough and such that the ruptured cap is retained in contact with the case.

    [0018] According to another embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a cartridge that includes a case, an igniter, and an insert. The case defines an interior cavity. The igniter is configured to ignite when an electrical element embedded therein is exposed to an electrical voltage differential. The insert is configured to define a plurality of chambers within the cavity and the insert includes aluminum particles that are embedded in a nitrocellulose matrix. An oxidizing agent including chemically bonded hydrogen is positioned within each chamber. The igniter is configured to initiate a reaction between the aluminum particles and the oxidizing agent that generates hydrogen.

    [0019] According to one aspect of the present invention, the pressure within the cavity increases such that a portion of the case ruptures and hydrogen is discharged from the cavity.

    [0020] According to one aspect of the present invention, substantially all material created by the reaction other than hydrogen remain associated with the case.

    [0021] According to another embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a device for the generation of hydrogen. The device includes a case and a spacer. The case that defines a cavity, and the spacer is positioned within the cavity and defines multiple chambers within the cavity. The spacer includes a metal and a binding agent. An oxidizing agent is positioned within the chambers. The spacer is configured such that there is substantially no reaction between the metal and the oxidizing agent until an ignition composition is ignited and the binding agent is consumed such that the metal and the oxidizing agent are exposed to each other.

    [0022] According to one aspect of the present invention, the metal is aluminum, the oxidizing agent is water, the ignition composition is thermite, and the binding agent is nitrocellulose.

    [0023] According to one aspect of the present invention, the case is formed of the aluminum embedded in nitrocellulose.

    [0024] According to one aspect of the present invention, the total amount of aluminum contained in the spacer and the case is roughly in stoichiometric proportions with the water.

    [0025] According to one aspect of the present invention, the metallic insert is configured to position the first reactant and the second reactant such that they are sufficiently near the igniter such that the rapid reaction of the first reactant and the second reactant can be initiated by the igniter.

    [0026] According to one aspect of the present invention, the binder forms a coating on a solid metal spacer.

    [0027] According to one aspect of the present invention, the metallic insert includes aluminum powder in a nitrocellulose matrix.

    Brief Description of the Drawings



    [0028] For a fuller understanding of the nature and objects of the present invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

    FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a cartridge according to one embodiment of the present invention;

    FIG. 2 is a side cutaway view of the cartridge of FIG. 1 taken along line 2-2;

    FIG. 3 is a partially-cutaway, expanded view of the cartridge of FIG. 1;

    FIG. 4 is a cutaway side view of a discharge assembly;

    FIG. 5 is a cutaway side view of a firing chamber showing an unspent cartridge; and

    FIG. 6 is a cutaway side view of a firing chamber showing a spent cartridge.


    Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments



    [0029] Embodiments of the present invention are directed to a cartridge for the rapid generation of hydrogen from a first reactant that contains hydrogen and a second reactant that contains metal. The reaction can be initiated by a low electrical voltage and consumes at least some of the structure required to position the reactants such that they are sufficiently close to each other and to an igniter for the rapid reaction to be initiated by the igniter.

    [0030] Referring to FIGs. 1-3 and 6, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention, a cartridge 10 for generating hydrogen includes a case 20 configured to receive a cap 50, an ignition assembly 70, and a spacer 100. The cartridge 10 is configured to be received in a reaction assembly 200 and discharged therein to generate hydrogen.

    [0031] As shown in FIGs. 1, 2, and 3; cartridge 10 includes a generally cup-shaped case 20 having a closed end 22. A circumferential groove 28 is defined around case 20 at closed end 22 and groove 28 is spaced-away from an outer surface 29 of closed end 22. Closed end 22 is shaped such that outer surface 29 defines a recess 31. Closed end 22 also defines an inner surface 23.

    [0032] Case 20 includes a wall 24 that extends away from closed end 22 toward an open end 26 and defining an inner surface 34. Surface 34 and surface 23 define a cup-shaped cavity 66. A first passageway 32 is defined through the closed end 22 of case 20 such that it extends from recess 31 to inner surface 23 thereby connecting outer surface 29 with cup-shaped cavity 66. A shoulder 38 that extends from an outer surface 39 of wall 24 to a land area 42 is defined by wall 24. Additionally, a lip 43 is formed by wall 24 at open end 26 of case 20. When positioned in a firing chamber 250 as shown in FIG. 4, wall 24 of case 20 is configured to deform such that a low pressure seal is formed at a predetermined pressure within cavity 66 as will be discussed further below regarding cap 50.

    [0033] In the illustrated embodiment, case 20 is formed of a thermoplastic material. By way of example and not limitation, case 20 can be formed of one of the following: nitrocellulose, cellulose, metal, metallic material, thermoplastic, or a combination thereof. By way of example and not limitation, the thermoplastic can include polycarbonate (commercially known by various trade names including Lexan®), polyoxymethylene (commercially known by various trade names including Delrin®), polymethyl methacrylate (commercially known by various trade names including Plexiglas®), and a combination thereof.

    [0034] Continuing to refer to FIGs. 1, 2, and 3; cap 50 includes a generally circular wall 52 that defines an inner surface 54 and an outer surface 56. Cap 50 is positioned across the open end 26 of cup-shaped case 20 such that cavity 66 is enclosed. A flange 58 is positioned around the circumference of wall 52 of cap 50 and extends away from inner surface 54 of wall 52. Flange 58 has a circumferential recess 62 formed therein that is configured to engage lip 43 of case 20, and thus be retained on open end 26 of case 20. As can be seen in FIG. 1, a plurality of grooves 64 are formed on the outer surface 54 of cap 50. In the illustrated embodiment, grooves 64 are positioned to form a cross-shaped pattern, but it should be appreciated that in other embodiments, grooves 64 can have other configurations.

    [0035] Grooves 64 of cap 50 are dimensioned to fail at a predetermined rupture pressure. The rupture pressure is less than a peak, i.e. maximum, pressure generated within cavity 66 by the reaction of the metallic first reactant and the oxidizing second reactant in cartridge 10 in firing chamber 250. Thus cap 50 is configured as a burst disk such that cap 50 is configured to preferentially rupture to form an opening 51 in wall 52 as shown in FIG. 6. Opening 51 is configured to fluidly connect cavity 66 with a region outside of cartridge 10.

    [0036] Preferably, the rupture pressure is between about 34,5 bar (500 psi) and about 1034,2 bar (15,000 psi); more preferably, the rupture pressure is between about 206,8 bar (3000 psi) and about 896,3 bar (13,000 psi); and even more preferably, the rupture pressure is between about 620,5 bar (9,000 psi) and about 758,4 bar (11,000 psi). As shown in FIG. 6, a least one petal 65 is formed when cap 50 ruptures along grooves 64. Preferably, petal 65 remains attached to flange 58 and flange 58 remains engaged with case 20. In this manner, the components of cap 50 that remain after discharge of cartridge 10 are retained on case 20 and can be recycled or disposed of along with case 20.

    [0037] In the illustrated embodiment, cap 50 is formed of a metal. By way of example and not limitation, cap 50 can include at least one of the following: stainless steel, brass, nitrocellulose, a fiber reinforced resin, electrically conductive elements, and a combination thereof.

    [0038] As shown in FIG. 3, spacer 100 is positioned within cavity 66. In the illustrated embodiment, spacer 100 is generally longitudinal and has a plurality of ribs 103 that are distributed radially around a central core 104. A passageway 108 is formed through core 104 of spacer 100. Each rib 103 extends toward inner surface 34 of wall 24 such that a plurality of chambers 106 are defined by ribs 103, inner surface 34 of wall 24 and closed end 22, and the base surface 73 of primary ignition block 72. The plurality of chambers 106 are radially disposed and are configured to receive water as an oxidizing agent such as water 107. Alternatively, spacer 100 can be configured as cylinder that defines a central chamber or a cylinder that defines a first central chamber and a second annular chamber. In further alternatives, wall 24 includes radially disposed ribs that extend into cavity 66 and there is no spacer 100. In this embodiment, path P is formed along one of the radially disposed ribs.

    [0039] In the illustrated embodiment, spacer 100 includes a metallic particulate 101 that is embedded in a matrix 102 as can be seen in FIG. 5. Metallic particulate 101 includes the metal first reactant. Matrix 102 is formed of a binding agent and is configured to be substantially impermeable to the oxidizing second reactant such the metallic particulate 101, and thus the metal first reactant, is substantially isolated from the water 107. In addition, matrix 102 is consumable during the rapid reaction of the metal first reactant and the oxidizing second reactant as discussed further below. As used herein, the term "consumable" refers to the quality of changing form or reacting such that the metallic particulate 101, and thus the metal first reactant, is substantially no longer isolated from water 107.

    [0040] In this regard, matrix 102 is configured to limit unintended reactions between water 107 and metallic particulate 101 such that no additional barrier between the metallic portion of spacer 100 and water 107 is required. Thus manufacture of cartridge 10 relative to conventional systems is simplified in that no separate container is required for water 107. The metallic particulate 101 of spacer 100 can include as the first metal reactant metals such as aluminum, magnesium, iron, sodium, potassium, titanium, and combinations thereof. In the illustrated embodiment, metallic particulate 101 includes aluminum and it is believed that aluminum having any purity is suitable for use as the reactive metal, and therefore, any alloy of aluminum is suitable for use as a metallic insert of the present invention. By way of example and not limitation, in alternative embodiments spacer 100 can include one of the following metallic materials: a woven metal mesh, a metal wool, discrete metal pellets, and a combination thereof. In these alternative embodiments, the metallic material is coated with the binding agent.

    [0041] The matrix 102 is a material that can function to bind metallic particulate 101 together. Other desirable characteristics of the matrix are: it is soluble and when solvated can be mixed with particulate 101, it can be easily dried or cured to form the desired component of cartridge 10, and it is consumable during a rapid reaction between the metal first reactant and the oxidizing second reactant. In the illustrated embodiment, the matrix includes nitrocellulose. By way of example and not limitation, the matrix can include one of the following: nitrocellulose, dextrin, guar gum, gum Arabic, shellac, synthetic organic polymers, other organic materials, and a combination thereof. In the illustrated embodiment, the percentage of metallic particulate 101 relative to the combined weight of metal particulate 101 and matrix 102 in spacer 100 is preferably between about 80% and about 99.9%; more preferably between about 88% and 98%; and most preferably between about 92% and 96%. It should be appreciated that structures other than spacer 100 disclosed herein that are formed of metallic particulate 101 embedded in matrix 102 have substantially similar compositions to that of spacer 100.

    [0042] It should be appreciated that the water can be pure or can contain various contaminates such as salts, metals, minerals, etc. The water can be a liquid or substantially solidified by combination with a gelatinizing agent. The ratio of the metallic first reactant, for example aluminum, and the oxidizing agent water is generally equal to the stoichiometric ratio of the oxidizing reaction between the two components. Therefore, when the metallic first reactant is aluminum and the oxidizing second reactant is water, the stoichiometric ratio is about one to one, and aluminum and water are contained in cartridge 10 in a ratio of about one to one. Referring to metal particles 101, they are provided such that the reactive metal contained therein is in an appropriate ratio. For example, if metal particles 101 are essentially pure aluminum, the mass of metallic particles 101 contained within the cartridge 10 is generally equal to the mass of water 107 in cartridge 10. Likewise, if metallic particles 101 include fifty percent by weight of nonreactive contaminants, then the mass of metallic particles 101 contained within cartridge 10 is generally two times the mass of water 107 in cartridge 10.

    [0043] Spacer 100 is configured to position ignition assembly 70 within cavity 66 such that assembly 70 is near cap 50 and in this regard, spacer 100 is a structural component. In alternative embodiments wall 24 of case 20 includes tabs or ribs that are configured to position ignition assembly 70 within cavity 66. Spacer 100 is configured to extend within cavity 66 from closed end 22 to assembly 70. Such that one end of spacer 100 is near surface 23 and another end of spacer 100 is near surface 73. It should be appreciated that while spacer 100 is configured to mechanically separate assembly 70 from closed end 22, in some embodiments spacer 100 is movable relatively one or both of assembly 70 and closed end 22, and in addition, might not be in direct contact with one or both of assembly 70 and closed end 22.

    [0044] Ignition assembly 70 is configured as an igniter and includes a primary ignition block 72 having a recess 74 formed therein. As used herein, the term "igniter" refers to a structure configured to generate sufficient temperature to initiate, i.e. ignite, a reaction between reactants. A passageway 78 is defined from recess 74 through a base portion of primary ignition block 72 to a base surface 73 defined by the base portion of primary ignition block 72. Recess 74 is dimensioned to receive a pre-ignition block 76. In the illustrated embodiment, both primary ignition block 72 and pre-ignition block 76 are generally cylindrical.

    [0045] Primary ignition block 72 includes thermite. As used herein, the term "thermite" refers to a composition that includes a metal oxide that acts as an oxidizing agent and a metal to be oxidized by the oxidizing agent. By way of example and not limitation, the metal oxide can be black or blue iron oxide (Fe3O4), red iron(III) oxide (Fe2O3), manganese oxide (MnO2), Chromium (III) oxide Cr2O3, cuprous oxide (Cu2O), cupric oxide, (copper (II) oxide, CuO), other metal oxide, or a combination thereof. The metal to be oxidized can be aluminum or other reactive metal.

    [0046] In one embodiment, the metal oxide is iron oxide (Fe3O4). Preferably, the thermite is formed together with a binding agent into a desired shape and the binding agent is a nitrocellulose lacquer. In this regard, the particles of thermite are retained within a matrix of nitrocellulose. It should be appreciated that in another embodiment, the primary ignition block 72 is formed of thermite that is configured to retain its shape without a binder, i.e. compressed or solid thermite. In a further alternate embodiment, the thermite can be in the form of particles that are retained in a container or wrapping (not shown) that is configured to support and shape primary ignition block 72.

    [0047] Pre-ignition block 76 is formed of a pre-ignition compound that includes potassium perchlorate, magnesium, and aluminum. Pre-ignition block 76 includes an element 82. Element 82 is configured to electrically connect cap 50 with a region adjacent one end of passageway 78 of primary ignition block 72. It should be appreciated that element 82 can be any electrical element configured to generate heat when exposed to an electrical differential. In one embodiment element 82 is a bridge wire. As used herein, the term "bridge wire" refers to a relatively thin resistance wire used to ignite a pyrotechnic composition.

    [0048] Pre-ignition block 76 is formed by a molding process in which the pre-ignition compound is formed of particles that are mixed with a binding agent and molded to a desired shape. The binding agent can be a lacquer such as nitrocellulose lacquer and in such an embodiment, pre-ignition block 76 is formed of particles of the pre-ignition compound embedded in a matrix of nitrocellulose. In the illustrated embodiment, the mixture of binding agent and pre-ignition compound is molded around element 82 such that element 82 is also embedded in the matrix of nitrocellulose. It should be appreciated that in other embodiments, pre-ignition block 76 can include solid or particulate components and can be positioned within a container or wrapping (not shown) that is configured to support and shape pre-ignition block 76. Further, element 82 can be positioned around pre-ignition block 76 or through a passageway formed therein after initial shaping of the pre-ignition block is complete.

    [0049] Pre-ignition block 76 is configured to ignite when element 82 is exposed to an electrical voltage differential that is preferably between about 1 volts and about 100 volts, more preferably between about 5 volts and about 30 volts, and even more preferably between about 10 volts and about 15 volts, and most preferably about 12 volts.

    [0050] Pre-ignition block 76 is configured to generate a temperature upon ignition that is sufficient to ignite primary ignition block 72. Primary ignition block 72 is configured to generate a temperature after ignition that is sufficient to initiate an oxidation reaction between the metal first reactant, and the oxidizing second reactant. In other embodiments, the ignition of composition 72 is sufficient to initiate a similar oxidation reaction that generates hydrogen. Primary ignition block 72 is configured to generate a temperature that is between 1371 °C (2,500 degrees Farenheit) and 3316°C (6,000 degrees Farenheit), more preferably between about 1788°C (3,250 degrees Farenheit) and about 2760°C (5,000 degrees Farenheit), and even more preferably between about 1927 °C (3,500 degrees Farenheit) and about 2482 °C (4,500 degrees Farenheit). Ignition assembly 70 is configured to initiate a reaction between spacer 100 and water as will be discussed further below.

    [0051] As shown in FIGs. 2 and 3, passageway 32 of closed end 22, passageway 108 of spacer 100, and passageway 78 of primary ignition block 72, are aligned to form a continuous primary passageway that connects outer surface 29 of closed end 22 with element 82. The primary passageway is configured to receive a conductor 112 that is configured to electrically contact element 82 at an end 116 such that element 82 is electrically connected with a button 114. Conductor 112 is also configured to be electrically insulated from other components of cartridge 10. By way of example and not limitation, conductor 112 includes one of the following: a solid metal wire, stranded metal wire, aluminum, silver, other metal, carbon, other conductive non-metal, and a combination thereof. In one embodiment conductor 112 is an insulated metallic wire. Button 114 is configured to provide a surface for electrical contact that is positioned exterior of cartridge 10, and button 114 is configured to be received in axial recess 31 of closed end 22. By way of example and not limitation, button 114 includes one of the following: aluminum, silver, other metal, carbon, other conductive non-metal, and a combination thereof.

    [0052] In this manner, an electrically conductive path P is formed that extends from outer surface 29 of closed end 22 to outer surface 56 of cap 50. Path P is configured to conduct an electric current such that the pre-ignition block 76 can be ignited as will be discussed below with regard to the operation of the present invention.

    [0053] Referring now to FIG. 4, cartridge 10 is configured to be received by a reaction assembly 200 and activated therein. Reaction assembly 200 includes a hydrogen containment vessel 204, a magazine 240, a loading device 241 and a firing chamber 250. Containment vessel 204 has a wall 205 that defines a cavity 206. A pressure sensor 208 is fluidly connected through wall 205 to cavity 206. In the illustrated embodiment, pressure sensor 208 is configured to generate a signal indicative of the pressure within cavity 206 and includes an operator interface.

    [0054] A discharge tube 214 defines a passageway that fluidly connects cavity 206 with a device or region outside of reaction assembly 200. A control valve 212 positioned in discharge tube 214 and is configured to control the flow of fluid through discharge tube 214. In one embodiment, control valve 212 is a pressure regulator valve that is configured to maintain a predetermined pressure within cavity 206. A valve 216 is positioned on wall 205 and is configured to vent cavity 206 to the region outside of vessel 204 at a predetermined pressure, i.e., valve 216 is configured as a pressure relief valve.

    [0055] A flow control mechanism 251 is positioned between firing chamber 250 and vessel 204. Mechanism 251 is configured to provide for the discharge of gas from firing chamber 250 into cavity 206. Mechanism 251 is also configured to prevent flow of gas from cavity 206 into firing chamber 250. Flow control mechanism 251 is electrically connected to controller 290 and is configured to be actuated by controller 290.

    [0056] Continuing to refer to FIG. 4, magazine 240 is configured to supply a plurality of cartridges 10 to firing chamber 250 via a loading device 241. Loading device 241 is positioned between magazine 240 and firing chamber 250 and is configured to convey a cartridge 10 from magazine 240 to firing chamber 250. In the illustrated embodiment, magazine 240 is detachable from the remainder of firing assembly 200. It should be appreciated that a plurality of magazines 240 are interchangeable such that subsequent magazines 240 can replace an initial magazine 240 and in this manner a supply of cartridges 10 can be provided to firing assembly 200 and more specifically to firing chamber 250.

    [0057] Firing chamber 250 is best seen in FIG. 5 and includes a breech block 253 and a generally tubular chamber wall 252. Breech block 253 defines interior tabs 256 that are configured to engage circumferential groove 28 of cartridge 10. Breech block 253 is configured to be openable such that cartridge 10 can be received therein.

    [0058] Breech block 253 of firing chamber 250 is generally cup-shaped and includes a back wall 254. Generally tubular sidewall 252 that extends away from breech block 253 toward an open end 255. Sidewall 252 and breech block 253 define a bore 257 that is configured to receive a cartridge 10. Wall 252 defines a shoulder 259 that separates a throat 261 from bore 257. Throat 261 has a diameter near shoulder 259 that is smaller than the diameter of bore 257. In one embodiment, throat 261 is generally cylindrical. Firing chamber 250 is positioned such that open end 255 is adjacent flow control mechanism 251 such that gases can be directed through throat 261 into flow control mechanism 251.

    [0059] Breech block 253 is configured to provide for the conveyance of cartridge 10 from loading device 241 into bore 257 of firing chamber 250. When cartridge 10 has been loaded into bore 257, tabs 256 engage circumferential groove 28 of cartridge 10 such that cartridge 10 is securely positioned within firing chamber 250. As can be seen in FIG. 6, firing chamber 250 is positioned such that solid residue and waste 67 generated during a discharge of cartridge 10 is retained within bore 257, and in the illustrated embodiment, cavity 66 of cartridge 10. In this regard, firing chamber 250 is oriented such that open end 255 is positioned above back wall 254, and more specifically, firing chamber 250 is oriented substantially vertically such that open end 255 is generally over back wall 254. It should be appreciated that alternatively, discharge system 200 can be configured such that firing chamber 250 is in motion during a discharge of cartridge 10 and that such motion creates a force directed toward back wall 254 such that solids are retained within cavity 66. In such an embodiment cartridge 10 can be operated generally without regard to the strength and direction of gravitational forces.

    [0060] In the illustrated embodiment, breech block 253 includes a contact 258 that is positioned centrally relative to back wall 254 and is electrically isolated from firing chamber 250. Contact 258 is configured to electrically engage button 114 of cartridge 10 when cartridge 10 is positioned within bore 257. Contact 258 is electrically connected to controller 290 such that contact 258 can form part of an electrical circuit that includes electrical path P of cartridge 10.

    [0061] In this regard, breech block 253 and tubular sidewalls 252 are formed of an electrically conductive material. When a cartridge 10 is positioned within bore 257 and breech block 253 is in the closed position, electrically conductive button 114 of cartridge 10 is electrically connected to contact 258 and cap 50 of cartridge 10 is in electrical contact with tubular sidewalls 252 of firing chamber 250. In this manner, an electrical circuit is formed that electrically connects tubular side wall 252 and breech block 252 via electrical path P described above.

    [0062] Continuing to refer to FIG. 6, after a cartridge 10 is discharged a spent cartridge 10' remains. Some components of spent cartridge 10' are analogous to components of cartridge 10 and will be designated by identical reference numbers and the prime symbol. In this regard, spent cartridge 10' includes a case 20', a button 114', a cavity 66', and a cap 50'. These components of spent cartridge 10' can be generally understood from the foregoing descriptions of the corresponding components of cartridge 10.

    [0063] In the illustrated embodiment, controller 290 is configured to control the electrical connection between contact 258 and a voltage source (not shown). In this manner, controller 290 is configured to control the discharge of cartridge 10. As used herein, the term "discharge" refers to the reaction of the contents of cartridge 10 to form hydrogen such that hydrogen passes through opening 51. Further, loading device 241, contact 258 of firing chamber 250, pressure sensor 208 and valve 212 are electrically connected to a controller 290. Controller 290 is configured to activate loading device 241, firing chamber 250, and valve 212 based upon predetermined parameters or instructions input by an operator. In one embodiment, controller 290 is an electronic computer that includes a storage device and a data input device.

    [0064] In another alternate embodiment, a mechanical firing device such as a percussion cap (not shown) is utilized to ignite the pre-ignition block 76 instead of element 82.

    [0065] In an alternative embodiment, case 20 is formed of a metallic particulate 101 embedded in a matrix 102 as described with regard to spacer 100 above. In this embodiment, the total amount of a reactive metal in the cartridge 10 is in stoichiometric proportions to the total amount of water 107 as it is in the illustrated embodiment. Therefore spacer 100 would contain less aluminum in this embodiment than in the illustrated embodiment wherein the mass of aluminum contained in spacer 100 is generally equal to the mass of water 107.

    [0066] It should be appreciated that nitrocellulose is consumed by the reaction. Therefore structures formed from nitrocellulose and the metal first reactant in various embodiments, such as spacer 100 or case 20, are consumed by the reaction between aluminum and water to generate hydrogen. It is believed that consumption of the matrix generates a relative small amount of waste in either a solid or a gas.

    [0067] The present invention can be better understood in light of the following description of the operation thereof. In the illustrated embodiment, cartridge 10 is configured to generate hydrogen by the reaction of spacer 100 with water contained within cavity 106. According to a method provided by the present invention, a cartridge 10 is positioned within firing chamber 250. A voltage is applied by controller 290 to contact 258 such that an electrical current flows from button 114, along conductor 112, through element 82, through cap 50, through sidewalls 252, and to the electrical ground. The current is sufficient to ignite pre-ignition block 76 and thus assembly 70 such that spacer 100 and the water in the cavities 106 are raised to a temperature sufficient to initiate an oxidation reaction between the spacer 100 and water 107.

    [0068] The principle products of this reaction are hydrogen gas and a metallic oxide. Pressures generated within cavity 66 are sufficient to rupture cap 50 and form opening 51. It is believed that a substantial portion of solid reaction products such as metal oxide and other solids generated by the discharge of cartridge 10 remain within cavity 66 or attached to case 20. Hydrogen gas passes from cavity 66 through opening 51 and flow control mechanism 251 into cavity 206 of containment vessel 204. The quantity of hydrogen gas and temperature of the hydrogen gas discharged from cartridge 10 determines the pressure within cavity 206. Valve 212, shown in FIG. 4, operates to provide for the discharge of hydrogen gas from cavity 206. Additional cartridges 10 can be discharged to generate additional hydrogen gas such that the pressure with cavity 206 is maintained at a predetermined level. In this manner cavity 206 acts as a reservoir configured to provide a continuous supply of hydrogen gas to a device configured to consume the hydrogen. It is believed that operation of the present invention can provide a source of high pressure hydrogen.

    [0069] In all embodiments, spacer 10 is configured such that sufficient quantities of metallic particulate 101 and oxidizing agent, such as water 107, are positioned such a rapid reaction between metallic particulate 101 and the oxidizing agent can be initiated by assembly 70. Once the rapid hydrogen generating reaction has begun, it is believed that it will continue until one or both reactants are consumed. In this regard, it is believed that the reaction will continue until substantially all of the metallic particulate 101 and that all components of cartridge 10 that were formed of the reactive metal will be consumed during the rapid generation of hydrogen.

    [0070] The present invention applies generally to cartridges for the formation of hydrogen. More specifically, a reusable or expendable cartridge is provided for the on-demand and nearly instantaneous generation of hydrogen at high temperatures and at high pressures. While the present invention has been illustrated and described with reference to preferred embodiments thereof, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that modifications can be made and the Invention can be practiced in other environments without departing from the scope of the invention, set forth in the accompanying claims.


    Claims

    1. A cartridge for the generation of hydrogen, the cartridge comprising:

    a case that defines an interior cavity;

    an igniter positioned within the cavity;

    a structural component positioned within the cavity, the structural component being formed of a particulate embedded in a matrix and the particulate includes a metallic material; and

    an oxidizing agent positioned within the cavity, wherein the oxidizing agent is water,

    wherein the matrix of the structural component includes at least one member selected from the group consisting of nitrocellulose, dextrin, guar gum, gum Arabic, shellac, and synthetic organic polymers, and is configured to be impermeable to water so that the metallic material is isolated from the water, and

    wherein the igniter is configured to generate a temperature that is between 1371°C (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit) and 3316°C (6,000 degrees Fahrenheit) so as to remove the matrix from the structural component such that the metallic material is no longer isolated from water and to initiate a reaction between the metallic material and the oxidizing agent to generate hydrogen.


     
    2. A cartridge according to claim 1, wherein the structural component is configured to generally maintain the position of the igniter relative to the case.
     
    3. A cartridge according to claim 2, wherein the matrix includes nitrocellulose.
     
    4. A cartridge according to claim 3, wherein the case is also formed of the particulate embedded in the matrix.
     
    5. A cartridge according to claim 4, wherein the igniter includes thermite.
     
    6. A cartridge according to claim 1, wherein the water is gelatinized.
     
    7. A cartridge according to claim 1, wherein the metallic material includes aluminum.
     
    8. A cartridge according to claim 1, wherein an electrical element is positioned within the igniter and is electrically connected with an exterior surface of the case.
     
    9. A cartridge according to claim 8, wherein the igniter is configured to ignite when a voltage is applied to the electrical element.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Patrone zur Erzeugung von Wasserstoff, wobei die Patrone umfaßt:

    ein Gehäuse, welches einen inneren Hohlraum definiert,

    einen Zünder, angeordnet in dem Hohlraum,

    eine Strukturkomponente, angeordnet in dem Hohlraum, wobei die Strukturkomponente aus einem teilchenförmigen Feststoff, eingebettet in eine Matrix,

    gebildet ist und der teilchenförmige Festkörper ein metallisches Material einschließt, und

    ein Oxidationsmittel, angeordnet in dem Hohlraum, wobei das Oxidationsmittel Wasser ist,

    wobei die Matrix der Strukturkomponente mindestens ein Element einschließt,

    ausgewählt aus der Gruppe, bestehend aus Nitrocellulose, Dextrin, Guargum, Gummiarabicum, Schellack und synthetischen organischen Polymeren, und

    konfiguriert ist, bezüglich Wasser undurchlässig zu sein, so dass das metallische Material von dem Wasser isoliert ist, und

    wobei der Zünder konfiguriert ist, eine Temperatur zu erzeugen, die zwischen 1371°C (2500 Grad Fahrenheit) und 3316°C (6000 Grad Fahrenheit) ist, um die Matrix von der Strukturkomponente derart zu entfernen, dass das metallische Material nicht länger von Wasser isoliert ist, und um eine Reaktion zwischen dem metallischen Material und dem Oxidationsmittel zu initiieren, um Wasserstoff zu erzeugen.


     
    2. Patrone gemäß Anspruch 1, wobei die Strukturkomponente konfiguriert ist, im Allgemeinen die Position des Zünders relativ zu dem Gehäuse beizubehalten.
     
    3. Patrone gemäß Anspruch 2, wobei die Matrix Nitrocellulose einschließt.
     
    4. Patrone gemäß Anspruch 3, wobei das Gehäuse auch aus dem teilchenförmigen Festkörper, eingebettet in die Matrix, gebildet ist.
     
    5. Patrone gemäß Anspruch 4, wobei der Zünder Thermit einschließt.
     
    6. Patrone gemäß Anspruch 1, wobei das Wasser gelatisiert ist.
     
    7. Patrone gemäß Anspruch 1, wobei das metallische Material Aluminium einschließt.
     
    8. Patrone gemäß Anspruch 1, wobei ein elektrisches Element in dem Zünder angeordnet ist und elektrisch mit einer äußeren Oberfläche des Gehäuses verbunden ist.
     
    9. Patrone gemäß Anspruch 8, wobei der Zünder konfiguriert ist zu zünden, wenn eine Spannung an das elektrische Element angelegt wird.
     


    Revendications

    1. Cartouche pour la production d'hydrogène, la cartouche comprenant:

    un corps définissant une cavité intérieure;

    un allumeur situé à l'intérieur de la cavité;

    un composant structurel situé à l'intérieur de la cavité, le composant structurel étant constitué d'une matière particulaire noyée dans une matrice et la matière particulaire comprend une matière métallique; et

    un agent d'oxydation situé à l'intérieur de la cavité, dans laquelle l'agent d'oxydation est l'eau,

    dans laquelle la matrice du composant structurel comprend au moins un élément sélectionné parmi le groupe consistant en nitrocellulose, dextrine, gomme de guar,

    gomme arabique, gomme laque et des polymères organiques synthétiques, et est configurée pour être imperméable à l'eau de sorte que la matière métallique est isolée de l'eau, et

    dans laquelle l'allumeur est configuré pour générer une température située entre 1371°C (2500 degrés Fahrenheit) et 3316°C (6000 degrés Fahrenheit) de manière à éliminer la matrice du composant structurel de sorte que la matière métallique n'est plus isolée de l'eau et à initier une réaction entre la matière métallique et l'agent d'oxydation pour produire l'hydrogène.


     
    2. Cartouche selon la revendication 1, dans laquelle le composant structurel est configuré pour généralement maintenir la position de l'allumeur par rapport au corps.
     
    3. Cartouche selon la revendication 2, dans laquelle la matrice comprend de la nitrocellulose.
     
    4. Cartouche selon la revendication 3, dans laquelle le corps est également constitué de la matière particulaire noyée dans la matrice.
     
    5. Cartouche selon la revendication 4, dans laquelle l'allumeur comprend de la thermite.
     
    6. Cartouche selon la revendication 1, dans laquelle l'eau est gélatinisée.
     
    7. Cartouche selon la revendication 1, dans laquelle la matière métallique comprend de l'aluminium.
     
    8. Cartouche selon la revendication 1, dans laquelle un élément électrique est situé à l'intérieur de l'allumeur et est électriquement connecté à une surface extérieure du corps.
     
    9. Cartouche selon la revendication 8, dans laquelle l'allumeur est configuré pour s'allumer quand une tension est appliquée à l'élément électrique.
     




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    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description