CBIA BizCast: Infinity Fuel Cell Powers the Future
It’s an exciting time for Bill Smith, the founder and CEO of Infinity Fuel Cell & Hydrogen, Inc.
The company is at the forefront of the industry, highlighted by its involvement in a NASA program to launch a fuel cell into space on an unmanned ship in September.
Despite a launch anomaly, the mission provided valuable data and Smith said it was inspiring to see all the efforts of the team pay off.
“We didn’t know what we would find when we investigated our system,” Smith said. “When we finally got it back here, we saw that we acquired all the data we were hoping to get.
“We were delighted by that data. We were delighted with being able to develop a system that can provide safe operations during that rigorous flight.”
In development since 2005, the fuel cell is now being tested to simulate conditions in outer space.
The technology has other potential applications as well, drawing interest from the U.S. Navy.
“It turns out that the same technology is very useful for use underwater, another air independent application, an application where you don’t have access to outside air,” Smith said.
The Navy wants to use the technology in unmanned underwater vehicles, allowing more flexibility to conduct longer missions that are not possible with traditional batteries.
There is also a commercial application with unmanned vehicles used to inspect gas and oil pipelines deep underwater.
For Smith, this is the latest step in a long career that includes working with space programs since 1978, later shifting to fuel cells and electrolyzers for space and military operations.
In 1996, Smith was part of a group that founded Proton Energy Systems, which commercialized fuel cells beyond space applications into more industrial uses.
Looking to get back into the “excitement” of aerospace and military applications, Smith left Proton in 2002, and started Infinity Fuel Cell.
Whether it’s space, underwater, or other applications, Smith said the demand for fuel cells is increasing, and that means the industry will only keep growing in Connecticut.
He added that the company is in a growth spurt, as it moves from research and development into a larger business that develops products that operate in different environments.
Despite the state’s labor shortage, and competition from larger companies, Smith said Infinity Fuel Cell has attracted people because of its mission.
“Fortunately, I think other people share the excitement that we have for this mission and even as small as we are, we are able to attract people simply because of their interest in this mission, their interest in the ability of this to help climate change in the future,” he said.
Looking to the future, Infinity is looking to expand its facilities and move its products in other markets such as aircraft, heavy vehicles, marine craft, and trains.
“Hydrogen and fuel cells can play a really important part in creating a carbon-free future,” Smith said.
“I’m inspired by the way the whole world is looking at hydrogen as a solution for climate change, as a big part of the solution.
“People of younger generations can look ahead and say ‘it’ll be OK, we can get through this period of time where carbon is causing the issues that it’s causing and look ahead to a bright future.’”
The CBIA BizCast is made possible through the generous support of Google. If you have a story to tell, contact Amanda Marlow.
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