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Dayton, OH, United States

Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 100.00K | Year: 2006

The fluid-flow field plate, or bipolar plate, is known to significantly impact the performance, durability, and cost of a fuel cell system. Conventional methods of fabricating bipolar plates require the engraving or milling of flow channels into the surface of metal plates. As a consequence, the bipolar plate is one of the most costly components of a proton-exchange-membrane (PEM) fuel cell, due to high machining costs. In addition, long-term corrosion is a major concern for metal plates. Composite bipolar plate are an option, but conventional composites are typically difficult to process, expensive, or not sufficiently conductive. This project will develop a low-cost, mass-production process for manufacturing flexible, graphite-based, sheet-molding-compound (SMC) bipolar plates. Compared to metal and other current composite bipolar plate technologies, flexible graphite SMC will have the advantages of high conductivity, low weight, small volume (thin plate), high resistance to gas permeability, high corrosion resistance, and mass production capability, resulting in lower fuel cell cost and improved system reliability. Phase I will demonstrate the feasibility of producing bipolar plates by using continuous in-line lamination and embossing of SMC. In particular, Phase I will design and construct a roll-to-roll sheet molding compound fabrication apparatus, fabricate the SMC bipolar plates, and characterize both the bipolar plates and PEM fuel cells using these plates. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits as described by the awardee: Highly conductive sheet molding compound (SMC) materials should find use as bipolar plates in PEM fuel cells for automotive/transportation, residential/stationary, and portable/micro fuel cells. Using the automotive market as an example, an automotive fuel cell stack could use up to 190 pounds of thermoset composite per vehicle. If 50% of all the new cars and trucks used fuel cell-power, a 1.5 billion pound composite market would be created. Other applications for conductive SMC include electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding, resistive heating, thermoelectric-energy generation, heat dissipation for microelectronic packaging, and electrode materials for battery applications.

Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.99K | Year: 2009

The two most critical barriers to the large-scale implementation of supercapacitors for powering electric vehicles (EVs) are electrode performance (e.g., device weight, internal resistance, energy density, and power density) and cost. To address these barriers, this project will adapt nano-graphene plates (NGPs) as the electrode materials ¿ in lieu of high-end carbon black ¿ in an asymmetric supercapacitor. Compared to the currently used activated carbon-based electrode, the new electrode will feature higher performance. Moreover, the NGPs can be readily mass produced, and thus would be available at much lower costs and in larger quantities. Phase I will determine proper electrode compositions and meso-porous structures that would provide high energy density and high power density for the asymmetric supercapacitors. Specific tasks include the preparation and surface functionalization of NGPs, the fabrication of asymmetric supercapacitors based on a nano-structured metal oxide electrode and a NGP electrode; and the characterization and modeling of electrochemical properties of nanocomposite supercapacitor electrodes. Phase II will focus on optimizing the materials compositions and nano-structures, and developing a processing technology for mass-producing the NGP nanocomposite electrodes. Commercial Applications and other Benefits as described by the awardee:Low-cost, light-weight, high energy density, and high power density supercapacitors should have a major impact on the markets for (1) energy storage devices for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), and (2) backup power sources for electronic, computer, and communications devices. The market demand for ultracapacitors is expected to reach approximately $560 million by 2011 and $1.1 billion by 2015

Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 749.04K | Year: 2007

In fuel cell systems, the bipolar plate is known to significantly impact the performance, durability, volume-to-weight ratio, and cost. This project will develop an innovative class of low-cost sheet molding compound (SMC) bipolar plates consisting of a thin nanocomposite core layer sandwiched between two sheets of flexible graphite (FG). The nanocomposite core layer imparts desired structural integrity to the plate while the FG sheets contribute to electrical conductivity, flexibility, resistance to corrosion, and gas permeation. Both the nanocomposite core and the FG sheets each can be very thin (less than 0.125 mm), resulting in ultra-thin bipolar plates and hence fuel cell systems that are more compact and lightweight. Phase I demonstrated that thin FG-SMC bipolar plates can possess conductivity much higher than 100 S/cm (a DOE target), with area specific conductivity greater than 400 S/cm2 (exceeding another DOE target of 100 S/cm2). Phase I also demonstrated the feasibility of an SMC fabrication process. In Phase II, a performance characterization and analysis of the FG-SMC bipolar plates will be conducted to establish product specifications (e.g., the strength, flexibility, electrical conductivity, gas permeation, and corrosion rates of the bipolar plates will be experimentally measured and compared with theoretical predictions), and a pilot-scale apparatus will be constructed. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits as described by the awardee: The automobile fuel cell bipolar plate market size is expected to be approximately $0.74 billion per year by 2011. The market size for motorcycles, other specialty vehicles, and portable device sectors is $0.092 billion, $0.050 billion, and 0.039 billion, respectively. The total worldwide bipolar market size will be $0.921 billion by 2011. Additional potential applications of conductive SMC include electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding, thermal management (heat dissipation) for microelectronic devices, and battery electrode materials.

Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2006

This project will develop a new class of nanocomposites containing isolated, individual, nano-scaled graphene plates (NGPs). Like carbon nano-tubes, NGP materials exhibit attractive properties like carbon nano-tubes, but can be readily mass-produced and are expected to become available at much lower costs and in larger quantities. When incorporated as a nano filler in a matrix, isolated NGPs are expected to impart exceptional mechanical (strength and stiffness), electrical (conductivity and dielectric), thermal (conductivity), and gas barrier properties to the matrix polymer. Phase I experimentally demonstrated the superior mechanical and electrical properties of the NGP nanocomposite. The feasibility of incorporating a high percentage of NGPs in a polymer matrix, to produce highly conductive bipolar plates on a continuous basis, has been demonstrated. Processes for preparing continuous filaments containing highly oriented NGPs, and for converting these filaments into a high-strength nanocomposite, also were developed. Phase II will develop the mass production capability of NGP nanocomposites for fuel cell bipolar plates, supercapacitor electrodes, and thin films or coatings for electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding and electrostatic charge dissipation (ESD) applications. The resultant material will be characterized with respect to strength, stiffness, gas permeation resistance (barrier properties), electrical conductivity, and dielectric properties (permittivity and loss factor). Modeling and computational work will be undertaken to theorize the experimental data. Commercial Applications and other Benefits as described by the awardee: NGP-based nanocomposites, with unique and tailorable electric conductivity and dielectric constants, could find use as functional coatings (EMI shields, electrostatic paintable plastics, ESD films or coatings, and corrosion-resistant coatings), lithium-ion battery negative electrodes, fuel cell bi-polar plates, supercapacitor electrodes, and dielectric elements in telecommunication devices. Future applications could include automotive friction plates, solid lubricants, and micron- or nano-scaled bearings, springs, sensors, and switch contacts. The market for conductive polymers alone (primarily filler-resin composites, but not including fuel cell bipolar plates) has been estimated at 128.5 million pounds at a value of $205.3 million in 2003. Projected growth forecasts show the market reaching 745 million pounds, valued at nearly $1.6 billion, in 2008.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 463.41K | Year: 2011

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project aims to develop cost-effective and commercializable anode materials exhibiting large lithium storage capacity, high rate capability, and long cycle life for next generation lithium-ion batteries. Silicon-based anode materials hold great potential to meet the high energy density requirements for advanced lithium ion batteries. However, the intrinsic low electrical conductivity and huge volume change of silicon during lithium insertion and extraction lead to quick electrode failure, and thus hindering their practical applications. The proposed Si nanocomposites are expected to effectively prevent the crumbling of Si particles, maintain the integrity of the electron-conducting network, and allow the electrolyte solution to easily access the active sites. This phase II project will develop and optimize the nanocomposite compositions and related synthesis and processing procedure to accelerate industrial scale manufacturing of anode materials in the US.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is the development of a new anode technology capable of exploiting a dramatic improvement in lithium ion battery performance, which will speed the deployment of advanced lithium ion batteries for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and all electric vehicles.

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