May 29, 2014

Researchers at Technical University of Denmark (DTU) Energy Conversion has transformed an ordinary HP inkjet printer into a printer capable of printing inexpensive fuel cells in 3D with better quality than the traditional tape casting methods.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) have gained increasing attention over the last two decades due to its high efficiency, long-term stability, fuel flexibility, and low environmental impact. But building inexpensive, efficient, reliable fuel cells is a much more complicated process.

Researchers at DTU has modified a 400 DKK HP 1000 inkjet printer to print the fuel cells with superior performances.

"We have developed a cheap and innovative technology that allows the printing of ceramic thin films (≈1µm), using an inkjet printer. A continuous and dense 1.2 micrometer yttria stabilized zirconia layer has been fabricated with this process and it improved the fuel cell performance. This process is flexible enough to be applicable for numerous materials for other applications involving thin layers as well", explains Christophe Gadea, development engineer at DTU Energy Conversion.

"Inkjet printing has a tendency to miss a pixel once in a while, resulting in leaks in the electrolyte and a decreased performance, but this problem was solved by printing several layers on top of each other, greatly improving the cell efficiency and still keeping the overall thickness below 10 µm."

"In the nearby future, activities will be focused on improving inks, printing more complex patterns and optimizing the final process to enhance the printed layers characteristics such as substrate covering and surface profile", explains Gadea.

The modified inkjet printer is presented today to the public at DTU Cleantech Bazar at Technical University of Denmark.

In the future the 3D printed fuel cells could be cheap and efficient enough to widely replace traditional ways of generating power, such as coal-fired or hydroelectric.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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