and Sharp Corporation recently signed a Co-operative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to work together on renewable and alternative energy technologies, including advanced fuel cells for portable power applications.
Jeff Nelson, Sandia manager of the CRADA, says the agreement is one of Japanese electronics giant Sharp’s first interactions with a US laboratory.
Nelson says Sandia, a US National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory, brings novel membrane and catalyst capabilities to the fuel cell project while Sharp brings extensive system and application-level experience.
“Our hope is that we’re successful and that success could expand our collaboration into solar photovoltaics and other areas,” he says.
The broader partnership between Sandia and Sharp will focus on energy technologies, specifically photovoltaics and fuel cells. It will involve research and development of Sharp’s solar photovoltaic technologies, including tests and improvements on reliability, durability, calibration of solar modules, inverters, and other advanced applications.
Sandia’s immediate focus is on portable power applications, such as the use of direct methanol fuel cells to power consumer electronics like laptops, mobile phones, and PDAs.
Sharp has asked Sandia to fabricate fuel cells using Sandia’s proprietary membranes and catalysts. Sandia researchers, along with researcher Akimasa Umemoto from Sharp, have begun designing the materials and membrane electrode assemblies for Sharp’s specific application target. They will fabricate and test the fuel cells during the 12- to 18- month project under conditions relevant for Sharp’s applications.
Chris Cornelius, Sandia principal investigator for the CRADA, says Sandia will work with Sharp, the largest producer of solar photovoltaic modules in the world, on the development of technologies for passive direct methanol fuel cells.
“Our research team and Sharp Corporation will bring together our materials and engineering skills to develop technologies that will impact methanol-based fuel cells,” Cornelius says.
“Sandia can apply its extensive materials capabilities to help Sharp bring new products to the market, and Sharp with its extensive electronics and manufacturing expertise will assure the development of commercial mobile power technology that is important for many applications, including man-portable power and distributed sensor networks,” Nelson says.
Fuel cell focus — Sharp Corporation researcher Akimasa Umemoto looks at a prototype miniature fuel cell stack. Photo by Randy Montoya