Hydrogen Gas ―The "Replacement" Fuel
For historic background -- the hydrocarbon fuel era commenced about 125 years ago. Since the mid-19th Century -- about a trillion barrels of oil and gas reserves were discovered, produced and consumed. Over the next 30 years, it is opined that the second, and finite, trillion barrels of reserves will be depleted. Modern civilization has been driven by the intensive production of finite fossilized biomass resources which are readily convertible to exploitable energy.
Fossil biomass -- the major proportion of our currently accessible, reasonable cost, energy resources simply derives, in the first instance, from nature's harnessing of the power of sunlight. Summarizing, the systematic exploiting of fossilized biomass -- which includes families of related hydrocarbons in their varied natural states -- all derive from the sun's light energy which generated these resources over innumerable millennia. Brought down to its basics -- the Phoenix "Replacement" fuel production effort may also be characterized as exploiting the solar light-powered generation of hydrogen gas deriving from an ordinary water feedstock.
The further downside of our civilization's current fossil fuel energy dependency is not only its predictable depletion -- but also the resulting degradation of our planet's environment deriving from global warming issues and atmospheric pollution caused by greenhouse gas emissions and acid rain. The primary Phoenix mission is the funding of the development of proprietary photoelectrochemical hydrogen gas generation technology -- which has very recently advanced beyond proof-of-concept to the current scale-up phase of the process; as the precursor to early commerciality.
"Molecular Machines" ― Hydrogen Generation Systems
The proprietary Phoenix-funded hydrogen gas generation technology is under development through an exclusive, worldwide, long term Technology License Agreement with a major U.S. research university. Phoenix funding is employed in the basic photoelectrochemicaldesign of innovative, complex"molecular machines"that can split water into its hydrogen and oxygen components by harnessing energy sourced from the largely complete solar light spectrum.
The long recognized primary technical difficulty in developing efficient solar light-powered hydrogen gas production from a water feedstock is that each water molecule must receive two additional electrons in order to separate the hydrogen atoms from the oxygen component of the water source. Molecular structures, or"molecular machines,"must be designed to deliver multiple electrons simultaneously to a central reaction center, which then catalyzes, or facilitates, the water-splitting process. By designing the process in its molecular scale, improved efficiency can more readily be built into the system. Molecular complexes that absorb visible light energy must also be designed to tap into the energy contained in the fairly complete range of the solar light spectrum. The creation of successful, efficient supramolecular complexes for this innovative proprietary process required many years of testing the numerous combinations and permutations of the essential system components, including the catalysts, ligands and electron donors.
The action of the specially-designed molecular complexes -- which we define as"molecular machines" -- basically mimics the natural photosynthesis process. The "machine" comprises a combination of organic and metal-containing components constructed of three primary units. A chemical bridge connects each of the two light-absorbing units to form the operating central catalytic unit.
The research to date has now focused on a range of diverse platinum group metals (PGM) which contain the atoms that comprise the essential light-absorbing units. As in the chlorophyll molecule driving natural photosynthesis, a photon striking a PGM atom excites one of its electrons. The electron is then shuttled to the central unit which contains a different PGM. The latter PGM atom collects electrons, two at a time, which then perform and result in the desired reaction.
To ensure that the excited, mobilized electrons would gather in the central unit, the complex's chemical bridges are designed to attract the electrons from the light-absorbing segments, and then shuttle them in the right direction. Once the chemical bridge was developed, the next critical challenge was to determine the optimum PGM metals for the central catalytic unit that serves to pull in the electrons and catalyze the complex bond-breaking and bond-making reactions necessary to produce the hydrogen gas from the ordinary water substrate, or feedstock.
Certain PGM metals are strong electron acceptors. They must also be reactive enough to split water -- and, as catalysts, they remain stable over the longer term for incorporation into the final design of the hydrogen gas generation system. The extended research programs completed to date indicate that the efficiency of the"molecular machine"system is already considered practicable and stable -- and recently established as advancing beyond the proof-of-concept stage. The program is now capable of generatingmeasurable, solar light-generated, hydrogen gas production -- and is progressing into the system's scale-up -- targetting commerciality.
Phoenix plans for a leading role in the future "Hydrogen Economy" -- following the milestone grants of U.S. Patent 7,122,171 (October 2006) and U.S. Patent 7,582,584 (September 2009) extending proprietary protection to a wide range of hydrogen production system elements, components and materials. Phoenix International Energy Inc., the Company's U.S. unit, holds worldwide exclusivity for its innovative hydrogen gas production system under an agreement with a major U.S. research university which extends for 20 years beyond the 17-year term of the last patent issued under the accord. Both U.S. Patents confirm that the rigorous pre-patent examination process disclosed no "prior art" that conflicts with the Company's "foundation" technology covering the light-powered generation of low cost hydrogen gas from an ordinary water feedstock. Phoenix has also filed provisional U.S. and international patent applications covering the compounding of hydrogen gas with captured carbon emissions to produce the full range of conventional liquid transportation fuels (synfuels) from light-end jet fuel and kerosene through heavy-end diesel products.