This French startup is betting on solid hydrogen

Liquid or compressed gas forms are not the only possibilities for hydrogen storage. Mincatec Energy chose a low pressure solution by trapping hydrogen molecules in metal powder. This scenario is ideal for sustainable mobility and energy management in a house, a building and even on a larger scale. Company director, Emmanuel Bouteleux details the process and its perspectives.

Founded in 2013, the company Mincatec entrusted the research and development part to its subsidiary Mincatec Energy, founded in 2020. The latter is working to launch its H2 molecule storage model.

“Under conditions of pressure and temperature, hydrogen is absorbed into metal fragments from 0 to 3 mm in an exothermic reaction, that is, with the production of heat”exposes Emmanuel Bouteleux. “A bit like a sponge soaking up water, the H2 molecules get into the interstices of the material and end up in the crystalline solid form. Only a small dead volume of gas remains. Hydrogen is injected at a pressure between 30 and 50 bar into the tank. For this operation, the temperature in the latter is ideally 30°C »he continues. “On the other hand, desorption occurs in an endothermic reaction. The fuel cell begins to take in hydrogen due to the increased pressure in the tank. Then we reheat a second time »he says.

Director of Mincatec Energy, Emmanuel Bouteleux bets on powdered hydrogen.

Heat exchanger

“With the other systems, all elements of the drivetrain produce only heat. In ours, the tank plays the role of a heat exchanger. For example, heat is recovered from the heat pump to facilitate desorption. There is cogeneration with the battery »outlines Emmanuel Bouteleux. “The tank housing is made of aluminum. It is mainly a question of lightness, but also of heat transfer. We have a circulation around the cylinder to heat or cool it »he says. “This cogeneration makes it possible to review the dimensioning of the ventilation and radiator of a vehicle powered by hydrogen. This allows to play with the body style, to reduce the SCX, for greater efficiency »announces our caller.


With our solution, energy density is more interesting

“Our base unit is a 50 liter module weighing 85 kg and capable of holding 1 kg of hydrogen. For higher requirements, the number of modules is therefore multiplied. Each of them is made up of 4 cylinders that will therefore receive 250 grams of gas »calculates the director of Mincatec Energy. “Because of the metal dust, our tank is heavier than compressed or liquid hydrogen. But it is lighter than a chemical battery. With our solution, the energy density is more interesting. In isovolume, therefore, we will store more energy, which is interesting for vehicles where space is limited”he rejoices. “This greater weight of the tanks can also be used as an asset in vehicles that need ballast for stability. This is the case, for example, with boats or agricultural, handling or construction machines for which our technology is perfectly suited.”he illustrates.

15 years of use and infinite recyclability

“At a filling station, the higher cost of the storage system is offset by lower compression requirements. The same for stationary where it is no longer necessary to compress the hydrogen at the output of an electrolyser. Therefore, saving energy for storage. So we have much lower Capex and Opex for a more efficient solution”underlines our interlocutor.

“Since there are no losses over time, with our solution we can store energy produced, for example, in the summer from renewable sources, and only use it in the winter. It is very interesting for the self-consumption of a house, a building or to feed the electrical grid”he adds. “Although our tanks are now more expensive per kilogram stored, they don’t use critical materials and therefore don’t pose geopolitical issues. They are infinitely recyclable. We advertise a lifespan of 4,000 discharge/recharge cycles or 15 years of use. But we hope to go beyond that. Large-scale production would allow us to be more competitive.”he guarantees.

First demonstrator with Shypage

“As part of the Shypage project, carried out with our partner UTBM and 2 CRNS laboratories, we had to present a demonstrator for mobility and another for stationary. As we were unable to raise all the necessary funding, we limited ourselves to an application for a vehicle, taking on a hydrogen quadricycle from the Mobyposte project”explains Emmanuel Bouteleux.

It should be noted that with this old program born in 2008, hydrogen tanks already used the principle of hydride absorption. “It took 2.5 hours to refuel, compared to 10 minutes with our solution, which is very close to the refueling time with compressed hydrogen. This project allowed us to validate our tank for mobility »he points. “We kept the chassis and wheel motors from the original design, changed the tank and added our control system. We got a range of 180 km, compared to 45 km on the Mobyposte, where the hydrogen fuel cell served more as a range extender.”he explains.


also for river

“With the association Dans le Sens de Barge, are we involved in the Barge project which aims to develop hydrogen propulsion in a boat coupled to a barge? This traveling ensemble must travel along the Seine for cultural events. We are awaiting funding to complete the integration »reports Emmanuel Bouteleux. “We are not putting our solution in competition with compressed or liquid hydrogen. We see it as complementary, for specific applications »he begs. “We are currently working on certification of our reservoir. For its industrialization, we have already planned a collection. When it comes to mobility, the problem is storage. That’s why we think we’ll move faster with the stationary.”he believes.

Complete turnkey systems

“We are able to provide all the necessary engineering around our innovative tank-based solution. Among our strengths: design offices for mechanics, electricity and electronics and energy management »introduces the director of Mincatec Energy.

“We can carry out sizing studies, but also take care of the management of electrolysers, photovoltaic panels, storage, consumption at the scale of a house, a tertiary building or a neighborhood. In order to integrate complete turnkey systems »he suggests. “As far as mobility is concerned, we know how to operate with all types of fuel cells and control all engines”concludes.

H2 Mobile and I warmly thank Emmanuel Bouteleux for his responsiveness and availability.

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