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Posted: January 6, 2010
Optomec Awarded Air Force Contract to Enhance Fuel Cell Manufacturing System
(Nanowerk News) Optomec announced that it has received a new contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to deliver high throughput enhancements to its Aerosol Jet® system. The upgrades will be made to a system that is being used by AFRL to develop and prototype high efficiency solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) based on Aerosol Jet’s unique material mixing capabilities. These advances will significantly increase the output of the system and will demonstrate high volume production feasibility. The new contract brings the total amount of project funding to more than $1.5 million.
The AFRL system and its enhancements will remain housed at the Thermal and Electrochemical Branch-Propulsion Directorate Energy/Power/Thermal Division at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The system will continue to be primarily used to develop deposition processes for SOFCs. Dr. Thomas L. Reitz, Chief of the Thermal and Electrochemical Branch, states, “The Optomec system brings a unique capability to our lab in not only the area of solid oxide fuel cell development, but in thick film material deposition, in general, with a wide range of potential applications.”
Optomec’s systems offer both cost and functional benefits for the production of fuel cells. First of all, the Aerosol Jet process is a “digital” additive manufacturing approach that creates structures and patterns without the cost of screens, masks or other tooling. Plus, the process provides for high material utilization rates, which lowers the consumption of expensive catalysts and other materials. Additionally, the system has the unique capability to dynamically mix multiple materials during deposition, which allows the user to create smooth transitions between the material layers of a fuel cell as opposed to abrupt interfaces. This architecture creates a larger functional zone that results in higher efficiencies and increased power densities. In addition, it produces better mechanical stability at the interface compared with traditional approaches, which can result in delamination due to mismatches in the coefficients of thermal expansion between different materials. Finally, the Aerosol Jet system can also be used for deposition on non-planar supports for producing cylindrical-type SOFCs or ceramic membranes. For more information on Aerosol Jet systems, click here.
Dave Ramahi, Optomec President/CEO, states that “Optomec is proud to be working closely with the AFRL team, a recognized leader in the field of SOFC development. Their guidance has provided a critical understanding of the needs of this industry, and we are confident that the high volume enhancements being developed under this contract will meet with strong demand from the fuel cell and other industries.”
Optomec is the world-leading provider of additive manufacturing systems for high-performance applications in the Photovoltaic, Electronics, Biomedical, and Aerospace & Defense markets. These systems utilize Optomec’s proprietary Aerosol Jet and LENS® powder-metal fabrication technology. The company has a global customer base of industry-leading manufacturers.