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Ilika (AIM: IKA), the advanced cleantech materials company, announces that it has received notification that its patent application covering the use of lower cost metal alloys as electro-catalysts in PEM fuel cells has been granted in the USA.

In a fuel cell, a controlled reaction occurs between hydrogen and oxygen. This reaction requires electro-catalysts, which are currently based on the precious metal, platinum. Ilika has developed a novel platinum-free catalyst, which, on a cost/performance basis, has been shown to be 70% cheaper than the current industry standard. The electro-catalysts, which were originally discovered using Ilika's high throughput materials development platform at its facility in Southampton, UK, have been subsequently manufactured to Ilika's specification by a partner using an industrially-scalable process.

The grant of this patent is therefore a significant step forward in securing the intellectual property in the major markets in which Ilika intends to commercialize its proprietary technology. Further grants of the patent family in other jurisdictions around the world are expected in 2013.

As communicated in Ilika's Trading update released in October 2012, Ilika's lead automotive partner has commenced its assessment of the technical performance of Ilika's proprietary fuel cell catalysts. Initial samples are being made available for confirmatory testing prior to designing a larger scale programme. A larger batch of electro-catalyst is currently being manufactured to Ilika's specification for delivery in the first half of CY 2013.

This patent underpins the product development work, which is being supported by the Carbon Trust through the £150,000 equity investment Ilika announced in September 2012. The Carbon Trust invested in Ilika through its Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge programme, to support the commercialization of Ilika's high performing electro-catalysts for use in fuel cell vehicles. As part of the Carbon Trust's technical and commercial evaluation of the technology, Ilika submitted performance data for assessment by independent experts demonstrating the performance and stability of the catalyst. The performance data was generated in industry standard tests of membrane electrode assemblies (MEA's) carried out at an independent fuel cell testing facility. The investment from the Carbon Trust is currently supporting Ilika in having a larger quantity of the electro-catalyst made for testing by the major automotive OEMs that have expressed their interest in the technology.

Graeme Purdy, Chief Executive of Ilika, added: "The grant of this patent by the USPTO confirms the novelty and inventiveness of Ilika's intellectual property in this area. The Ilika team is very focussed on ensuring the successful commercialisation of this technology with our key partners".