In 1990, after IBM and Apple transformed mainframe processing into personal computing, TMI saw a comparable opportunity for fuel cells. TMI realized that onsite power generation could provide the same 24/7 availability that has long been the exclusive province of the electric utility industry, but without the cumbersome grid for distribution. The company also saw how fuel cells could run side by side with secondary power sources such as wind, solar, and engine-driven generators, and augment their intermittent power with always available primary power. Key goals were to make a user-friendly system independent of support infrastructure by not requiring special tools, equipment or training to install, operate and maintain systems in the field, and by allowing fuel choices based on availability or cost from ordinary, untreated fuels, including zero carbon biofuels.
In a major report*. Battelle confirmed this market-opportunity, identifying this nascent technology (then owned by BP/SOHIO) as having the highest potential of all known fuel cell designs for achieving low-cost power at the kilowatt scale. Acting on these findings, TMI acquired the entire solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology program from BP/SOHIO, including consulting relationships with the original development team at BP America's World R&D Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Today, features of TMI’s AE system -- compactness and modularity, in a kilowatt-class package, and operation on many liquid and gaseous fuels -- is unmatched. The features of the AE system, engineered to benefit the end user, differentiate it from any other known primary power alternative in the 1-20 kW range.
Diversity of Support
Success at designing systems which meet specific challenges has led to a steady stream of contract awards from highly competitive federal, state, and industry funding sources, some of which are shown below.
* Private report prepared for BP America in 1988 (and later updated by EPRI).