Open Competition 3 - Electronics and Photonics
High Density, Scalable, Mass-Manufacturable Semiconductor Fuel Cell
Pursue semiconductor fabrication methods for high volume manufacture of Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell cores, leading to a family of low-cost fuel cell systems ranging from 1 Watt to over 10kW, potentially giving the United States a dramatic lead in fuel cell production and replacing millions of imported batteries.
Sponsor: Integrated Fuel Cell Technologies, Inc.19 Crosby Drive
Bedord, MA 01730
Integrated Fuel Cell Technologies (IFCT) will undertake technical development of a hydrogen-powered fuel cell using well-established, high-volume semiconductor-manufacturing techniques. Its innovative design calls for fabricating thousands of individual micro fuel cells on a single silicon wafer, an approach that could surmount cost barriers and other obstacles that have confronted groups using more conventional designs. If successful, this two-year project could solidify the United States' lead in the international competition to achieve low-cost fuel cell production. The sought-after technology could also replace billions of imported batteries, eliminating environmental hazards associated with continued battery use. In terms of energy density, a key figure of merit, the IFCT technology's capacity could potentially be more than four times greater than that of today's top-performing batteries. Initially, the company will aim for a capacity improvement that is 2.8 times better than leading-edge commercial batteries, enough to save users and makers of portable electronics devices more than $20 billion a year. The higher energy density would also unleash a whole new wave of higher-performance portable devices that would not be possible with today's battery technology. In addition, the fuel cell technology can be scaled to meet higher power needs, such as backing up critical equipment, by packaging large numbers of cells in series or in parallel combinations. IFCT's radical approach includes using a novel proton-exchange membrane coated with a specialized catalyst. The membrane design greatly increases the fuel cell's reactive surface area. Technical risks include reliable deposition of reaction layer catalysts, ensuring leak proof seals for large arrays of PEM microstructures, and developing reliable fabrication processes. Sarnoff Corporation, Princeton, NJ, will be subcontracted for the process integration part of the research. Also, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, will develop a sealing method, and Northeastern University, Boston, MA, will formulate reaction layer material. ATP funding will further develop IFCT's innovative technology to the point at which venture capital firms and prospective customers can be convinced that the most significant technical risks have been overcome.