Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Printing Small Parts for Fuel Cells

Fuel cells will soon be replacing batteries in portable communications and consumer electronics devices. Better ways of mass producing the small and intricate components of fuel cells would help to bring down costs, growing the market for the devices more quickly.
Redwood City, Calif.-based EoPlex Technologies has found a low-cost way to make small, complex parts, and it plans to use the new technology for energy efficient and energy generating products.

EoPlex's process makes components using custom printing equipment and proprietary "inks."

The three dimensional parts are printed in layers using the special inks, with the ability to use multiple materials, including ceramic, metals and polymers, in the same structures...EoPlex's ink is what makes the process work.

"It's the secret sauce," Arthur Chait, CEO of EoPlex, told Cleantech.com. "And it truly is a secret sauce. It looks like sauce, kind of like thick sauce, and it's got multiple ingredients. There's a lot of trade secrets there."

..."One of the things holding fuel cells back," said Chait, "is the ability to make small, intricate ceramic-metal parts."

Those parts are needed for reforming, where the hydrogen is split out of the alcohol-water mixture to fuel the system. Chait said another hurdle is micro-pumps, which have no moving parts.

"Both of those technologies require a lot of small, complex ceramic and metal constructions. Little monolithic parts that have no moving assemblies, but can do all these chemical and pumping actions."

"We can build those cheaply," said Chait.

Inexpensive fuel cells could be a boon to first responders, who currently have to carry extra battery packs into emergency situations. __Cleantech
Methanol (and other liquid fuels) fuel cells are much more practical at this time than hydrogen fuel cells. Substituting methanol fuel cells for batteries should provide an infinitely re-chargeable power supply, that provides charges lasting up to 10 times longer, or more, than conventional batteries. Removing the environmental load of millions of toxic disposable batteries is also a factor pushing the conversion.



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