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Advanced Manufacturing

Reducing Manufacturing Costs for Low-weight, Alane-based Fuel Cells

Company Name: Ardica Technologies, Inc.
Program Office: Advanced Manufacturing
Location: San Francisco, CA
Website: www.ardica.com
Email: Dick Martin, VP of Government Services; dmartin@ardica.com
Award Amount: $300,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Agreement negotiation
Participating Lab(s): Savannah River National Laboratory

CRITICAL NEED

Fuel cells convert stored hydrogen in energy. The nature and design of a fuel cell can vary extensively and technologists are keenly interested in customizing fuel cells for specific applications.

Ardica Technologies is developing portable hydrogen fuel cells that can be used in commercial and military applications, including as wearable energy storage. The hydrogen for these fuel cells is comprised of solid regenerable aluminum hydride, which releases its hydrogen through a simple, low temperature decomposition reaction that can be easily controlled for hydrogen-on-demand by the fuel cell. Alane is a metal hydride that demonstrates one of the highest theoretical weight percent of hydrogen at just over 10 percent. In addition, it contains 149 grams of hydrogen per liter, allowing for significant volume reduction compared to compressed gas storage.

Current methods for producing alane are expensive, due to costly feedstock, inefficient processing conditions and small batch processing constraints, resulting in an estimated cost of $3,500 per kilogram. To further reduce the costs of producing alane, Ardica is using an electrochemical method for manufacturing alane patented by the Savannah River National Laboratory. Doing so while utilizing a continuous fluidized bed reactor through the Pilot is projected to reduce the costs of manufacturing alane to below $100 per kilogram. Further, in-line monitoring and control of the manufacturing process is expected to reduce costs to below $10 per kilogram, allowing the technology to succeed in broader markets.

PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES

The need for reliable power is a constant for nearly all people and businesses, but is a critical challenge for soldiers on campaign. Today’s soldiers survive on electronic devices, from GPS to radios and night-vision goggles, and must carry seven different types of batteries that collectively weigh 20 pounds to provide power over a 72-hour mission. Ardica’s alane-based wearable power system can deliver the same amount of energy at 65 percent less weight compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries. Lowering the cost of these systems will allow businesses and consumers to break free from the grid, supporting much longer run times on electronic devices, with potential application in electric vehicle range extension, too.

POTENTIAL IMPACT

Economy:

Increasingly energy-hungry devices are outpacing the capacity of current lithium-ion batteries. Hydrogen fuel cells are more energy-dense and could dramatically extend run time for electronic devices for businesses and consumers.

Environment:

When hydrogen is synthesized using renewable energy, fuel cells can reduce transportation and energy-related carbon emissions.

Security:

By significantly reducing the amount of weight soldiers carry on missions, Ardica’s power systems increase the efficiency of the soldiers in the field and offer greater energy capacity for powering devices. Extending electric vehicle range can also make such vehicles more attractive to consumers, thus reducing U.S. oil dependence.