Project Summary

Proposal Number:

Project Title:Inexpensive Polymer Precursor Beta-Alumina Electrolytes for AMTEC Power Systems and Na/S Batteries

Small Business Concern:
Advanced Modular Power Sys Inc.
4667 Freedom Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Research Institution:
University of Michigan
3003 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1274

Principal Investigator/Project Manager: Dr. Robert C. Svedberg

Technical Abstract:
Recently developed inorganic polymer ceramic precursor chemistry will be used to produce Na and K beta"-alumina solid electrolytes (BASE) for Alkali Metal to Thermal Electric Converters (AMTEC) and Na-BASE for Na/S battery systems. AMTEC cells are now built with a tubular BASE manufactured by relatively expensive conventional ceramic processing techniques. Foreign manufacturers are working on these electrolytes for Na/S batteries, but this technology is not for sale in the United States. The process proposed will enable BASE components to be produced inexpensively from either nanoscale powders or tractable liquid slurries and will enable AMTEC and Na/S batteries to be more readily commercialized. Alumina polymer precursors can be made in one step from Al(OH)3. The metal oxide derived polymers can be spray pyrolyzed to produce nano-powders, slip cast and sintered into complex shapes, or applied as thin film electrolytes on many substrates. The freedom to use alternate geometries will enable designers to match AMTEC system to the many heat sources available to power AMTEC. This approach is expected to signifi- cantly reduce the cost and enhance performance and efficiency of AMTEC systems and Na/S batteries. The process will be optimized during Phase II and cells made with the new BASE will be tested. Plans will also be made to develop a pilot production line to evaluate scaleup for Phase III commercialization.

Potential Commecial Applications:
Successful development of the polymer precursor technique will enhance the ability to produce AMTEC systems that are inexpensive, reliable, efficient, and lightweight. AMTEC systems can be powered by many heat sources, including solar, liquid and solid fuel combustion, and radioisotopes. The large cost savings related to the inherent high efficiency of AMTEC assure a market for small spacecraft from 10 We to 10 kWe, as well as for remote telemetry, signaling buoy, recreational vehicle, self powered home furnace and similar terrestrial applications.