The University of Maine chemical and biomedical engineering lab was recently awarded $374,752 by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) for research and development of the technology, producing hypochlorous acid that has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an effective disinfectant against SARS-CoV-2.

The DiriGoH20 technology is based on pulsed electrolysis where, in contrast to the steady voltage applied during traditional electrolysis, a voltage is applied in short, microsecond pulses at frequencies typically greater than 10,000 per second. Research has shown that pulsed electrolysis addresses a key, rate-limiting step that improves efficiencies relative to conventional or steady-state electrolysis. This key rate-limiting step is the transport of water ions in solution to the electrodes where they either consume or release electrons in the electrolysis circuit. Rapid pulsing voltages have been shown to reduce this internal resistance, and in some cases, improve overall efficiencies by up to 25%. 

In addition to efficiency increases, researchers have proposed that the rapid on/off pulsing of voltage does not allow time for electrons to flow between electrodes and thereby removed from the electrode reaction. This eliminates the need to electrically separate the electrodes from each other. The technology does not require a separator within the electrolysis cell, which is an ultra-thin material with tiny pores that can be easily fouled by contaminants. Removing the separator simplifies the cell and removes the need for expensive upstream water clean-up processes to protect the cell. In addition, research has demonstrated effective pulsed electrolysis of “dirty” water which has attracted interest in the wastewater treatment community.

MMP is continuing to improve on individual component design, integration, and operating performance of the system. Feedback on system performance is being evaluated at small-scale test sites and in-house experimentation. Small scale hydrogen storage for use during short-term electricity interruption is being developed for integration. Improvements in circuitry for electronic pulse generation and optimizing pulse characteristics to further minimize energy consumption are also underway.