Power Electronics

Joint R&D Focuses on Renewable Energy

Sandia National Laboratories and Sharp Corp. recently signed a Cooperative 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 Sharp’s first interactions with a U.S. laboratory. Nelson says Sandia 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,” Nelson 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 is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory. Sharp is the largest producer of solar photovoltaic modules in the world.

Sandia’s immediate focus is on portable power applications, such as the use of direct methanol fuel cells to power consumer electronics like laptops. 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-month 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 on the development of technologies for passive direct methanol fuel cells.

“Our research team and Sharp Corp. 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.

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