Energy efficiency is often thought of in the context of sustainability for our own planet, but one Ohio company is taking that idea a step further, all the way to the moon. pH Matter, based out of Columbus, has NASA’s interest with their reversible fuel cell technology. For CEO and Co-Founder Paul Matter, Ph.D., the opportunity not only cements the company’s place on the cutting edge, but also drives their innovation.
“We came up with a unique cell design that allowed a single cell to be both a fuel cell and an electrolyzer and operate in a very simple manner,” Matter said. “NASA needs these systems to store energy on the moon because night time there can last anywhere from 100 to 354 hours, depending on the location. Our cells can act like a battery through that long, dark stretch where you don’t have solar energy. They take solar energy, convert it into gas and put that gas into the fuel cell at night to generate electricity.”
When TechOhio last spoke with pH Matter, the company was focused on scaling their business and building their funding to develop the technology that is catapulting them to the forefront of energy efficiency. Now, they are expanding their momentum with their subsidiary Power to Hydrogen.
“We focused in the beginning on the materials and trying to lower the cost of materials for fuel cells,” Matter said. “When we identified that our materials could enable new technology and systems, that’s where we shifted to Power to Hydrogen, which is more focused on taking those materials and some of the cells we’ve designed and putting them into a system that can produce hydrogen and store energy. I’d say things are really taking off now and we’ve got these new systems that have capabilities other people can’t really deliver with their fuel cells or electrolyzers.”
Beyond the moon, Matter envisions earth-based applications for pH Matter’s fuel cell technology. Through Power to Hydrogen, the company aims to commercialize their design to help develop and distribute renewable energy storage at a reduced cost.
“The biggest impact is going to be the production of hydrogen at a lower cost and with better efficiency,” he said. “What we’re seeing right now is that the oil and gas industry is really shifting away from fossil fuels and going towards renewable hydrogen as a replacement for industrial applications. And things in the U.S. are picking up now with a lot of competition between countries to establish themselves as leaders for hydrogen.”
Though their sights are set on the future, Matter is grateful for the role Ohio played in launching their company’s growth. He’s confident the state will continue to bolster their impact into the next phase of their business, as pH Matter continues to lead the way for energy efficiency.
“Our involvement with Rev1 Ventures and The Ohio State University really helped us get going and find a good talent pool,” Matter said. “The State of Ohio holds a lot of the fuel cell industry and NASA’s Glenn Research Center has been one of the leaders in the development of fuel cells over the decades. A lot of potential applications for renewable hydrogen are actually in Ohio, like glass making and productional steel. Ohio is pretty well-positioned to play a role in the industry and we’re looking to be a part of it.”