PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., September 4, 2014 – WATT Fuel Cell Corp. (WATT) announced today its receipt of a 20-month, $2.1 million contract from the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) to demonstrate the viability of the company’s proprietary manufacturing processes. Under the contract, WATT will design and build a commercial-grade additive manufacturing line, as well as demonstrate and evaluate the line’s increased capacity for production of tubular cell components for SOFC systems.
“Traditional fuel cell manufacturing techniques are notoriously energy and labor-intensive, with high processing costs and low maximum yield, as well as high production scaling costs,” said Dr. Caine Finnerty, president and CEO of WATT Fuel Cell Corp. “WATT’s manufacturing processes offer the potential to achieve the industry’s lowest SOFC lifetime cost by minimizing the time, energy, labor and materials required for production.
“WATT has focused on removing the ‘art’ from SOFC production, essentially reducing the process to simply adding raw materials, selecting the fuel cell type and pressing ‘go,’” continued Finnerty. “This level of automation translates into reproducible components, higher yields and, most importantly, reduced price – all of which improve commercial viability and thereby lower final costs for WATT’s military customers.”
According to Finnerty, work performed under the contract will also result in the delivery of a 1-kilowatt SOFC system incorporating tubular cell components from the new manufacturing line. This stand-alone TRL 5 liquid-fueled system will increase the number of viable military applications for SOFC technology.
“WATT’s SOFC technology provides additional advantages including a small overall footprint, lighter weight, near-silent operation, high power densities and the ability to withstand rapid thermal cycling,” said Paul DeWald, vice president of engineering at WATT Fuel Cell Corp. “Also, SOFC units from WATT are designed to operate using readily available fuel sources such as natural gas and propane, and other fuels typically present in military environments such as JP-8. The technology is engineered for a variety of military applications, including battery re-charging stations, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), mobile platforms and other ground-based applications.”
“CERDEC Command Power & Integration directorate (CP&I) is developing SOFCs that can operate on JP-8, to fill a critical need for affordable, efficient and lightweight power sources at the squad and platoon level for battery charging applications in extended austere deployments,” explained Shailesh Shah, fuel cell technology team leader in CP&I’s Power Division.
“This U.S. Department of Defense program is a significant milestone for WATT, and we are excited to see the last four years of advances in our technology come together in a system for the military market,” said DeWald. “In addition to demonstrating the viability of our manufacturing process at a high volume, we will be delivering a complete and operable alpha system.”
WATT commenced work under the CERDEC contract this month and plans to complete the first phase by Q1 2015.