Fortunately, researchers at Northwestern University have developed a 3D printing production method that could bring these ceramic fuel cells another step closer to commercial and affordable reality. They are working on a quick, cheap and efficient way to manufacture these ceramic fuel cells using a special 3D printable filament.
Speaking at the Materials Research Society’s fall meeting in Boston this week, Ramille Shah, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, discussed their new production methods. They have developed an ‘ink’ that can be used to create the individual components of an oxide fuel cell: the cathode, anode, electrolyte, and interconnects. These are realized using a filament mix: 70 to 90 percent of the substance consists of ceramic particles, while the rest consists of a binder, and a cocktail of solvents.
During printing, the various solvents evaporate at different rates and thereby create a unique solidifying process. The most volatile ones evaporate almost instantly, creating a semi-solid shape that holds its form but can still bond to the layers printed on top of it. Depending on the components, the mixture varies slightly. Printing itself can be done at room temperature, though this special ceramic does have to be heated up to 1250° C to make it a solid and dense shape. ‘We can get really densely packed particles in the printed structure’.
Researchers from this Northwestern team speculated that this 3D printing method could be used to develop a very easy manufacturing process for fuel cells. It could even produce unique shapes, like flat sheets of ceramic that can be rolled or folded into particular shapes for particular applications.
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Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
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