Thursday, April 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

SiGNa Chemistry has got the power

The cartridge production lines at SiGNa Chemistry's Davis facility are used to produce hydrogen fuel cartridges, which work much like everyday batteries. These fuel cartridges contain a water-reactive fuel that is used to generate H2 from a reaction with water; the hydrogen is then used by the fuel cell to create usable power.
Courtesy photo

SiGNa Chemistry, a company based in New York City, is now producing small, portable hydrogen fuel cartridges in our very own hometown.

The fuel cartridges, which are the size of a small tobacco tin, can recharge a cell phone for three days and have a wide variety of applications, city of Davis economic development coordinator Sarah Worley said. Worley added that, for example, the cartridges may function as an energy supply for keeping vaccines and medicines cool in isolated places as well as portable energy sources in disaster relief or military operations.

Even though production happens in Davis, the parts for the cartridges come from various locations, with final packaging and distribution handled by Pride Industries in Sacramento. Kate Carney, marketing and communications director for SiGNa Chemistry, noted in an email that the cartridges are not considered batteries. Instead, she said, the cartridges contain a water-reactive fuel that is used to generate hydrogen from a reaction with water. Afterward, the fuel cells use the hydrogen to create usable power.

Company President and CEO Michael Lefenfeld explained that, more broadly, the company uses its research center in Davis as its hydrogen energy center. The Davis headquarters is the “engineering facility for taking the chemicals that SiGNa manufactures and turning them into products for energy applications ranging from consumer electronics to power to automotive backup,” Lefenfeld said.

Lefenfeld also explained that SiGNa Chemistry decided to build a center in Davis because of the city’s proximity to Sacramento and “some of the big automotive and energy and consumer electronics companies that are located in that area” as well as the presence of UC Davis, “one of the top engineering universities in the country.”

He added that SiGNa Chemistry was attracted to building a research center in this state because “California has been a fan of alternative energy technology.”

SiGNa Chemistry’s Alternative Energy Research Center collaborates heavily with UCD on its projects, Lefenfeld said, particularly with professors in the chemistry and engineering disciplines.

The company also operates a research center in Monmouth Junction, N.J., but Lefenfeld explained that that center deals with chemical research rather than engineering. Lefenfeld cited as examples “materials in industrial chemistry, applications like pharmaceuticals and central chemical refining.”

At the Davis center, he added, engineers “put … systems around the chemicals to be utilized in specific consumer and business” areas. Chemical, electrical and mechanical engineers make the reactor systems and materials.

SiGNa Chemistry was founded in 2003 by Lefenfeld, then a doctoral student at Columbia University, with the help of James Dye of Michigan State University. The company delivers products to customers in 75 countries. Over the past decade, it has successfully developed a green nanotechnology-based solution for making reactive metals more efficient, safe and cost-effective. The company uses its materials in disciplines including pharmaceutical and industrial processes, cleaner energy and pollution remediation.

“We’re a growing company looking to deliver consumer-based products that are environmentally friendly, easy to handle and obviously to better the way of life of the individual users,” Lefenfeld said.

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