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02. Start-Up Company Primet Precision Materials Licenses Cornell Technology, the Basis for the Cornell Fuel Cell Institue

Cornell Fuel Cell GroupPrimet Precision Materials, Inc., is an advanced materials company dedicated to creating better performance in solar cells, fuel cells, and other consumer-friendly industries. The company’s processing technology enables the manufacture of small particles, including nanosized particles, from many diverse materials, such as ceramics and metals. Primet’s unique proprietary technology is cost-effective, scalable, and capable of producing materials of exceptionally high purity. Primet came to Ithaca mainly to tap into Cornell’s resources—in particular, the Cornell Fuel Cell Institute (CFCI). Primet licensed Cornell technology, which helped the company to raise funds to develop its own technology for fuel cell applications. The technology had resulted from a conversation between Cornell faculty members Hector Abruña and Frank DiSalvo. Abruña had been working on creating catalysts for hydrocarbon fuels with fuel cells in mind. DiSalvo suggested using ordered intermetallic compounds as catalysts. The initial results of the new ordered intermetallics, such as PtBi, PtBi2, and PtPb, were extremely promising. The new materials seemed impervious to carbon monoxide poisoning, which quickly renders pure Pt catalysts useless. Based on these results, the Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise, and Commercialization (CCTEC) filed for patent protection. The Cornell researchers used the exciting results as the foundation for a new center, the CFCI, which launched the work on the technical problems with low-temperature polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) with a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The grant was recently renewed for three years at $3.45 million.

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