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Fraunhofer Awarded More than $2.9 Million for Laser Processing and Carbon-Based Materials and Coatings; One Focus on Battery Manufacturing

Fraunhofer USA, the American subsidiary of Germany’s largest research and development organization, recently won four major awards amounting to $2.9 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The Fraunhofer Center for Laser Technology (CLT) won three of the four awards, one of which is for the application of “Advanced Laser Processing for Mass Production of Alternative Energy Systems.”

Fraunhofer will tailor laser processing technologies to the specific needs in the packaging and assembly of alternative energy sources and storage devices, such as high-capacity batteries and fuel cells.

The specific target is manufacturing of high-capacity batteries such as Lithium-Ion and NiMH batteries. The goal of this two-year program is to develop highly productive laser processing technologies for the manufacturing of high-capacity batteries at low costs.

The second laser award is for developing a novel diode laser at low cost and then transferring the technology to the Michigan-based laser manufacturer Visotek. Fraunhofer will also create new applications for the laser in automotive manufacturing and in the homeland security market.

New types of laser joining of dissimilar materials will be identified in their third project. Of particular importance is the design flexibility that can be achieved in miniaturized optoelectronic and micro-electromechanical (MEMS) and bio-MEMS devices used exclusively in the telecommunication and medical implant/device industries.

Carbon-based materials and coatings was the winning project for Fraunhofer’s Center for Coatings and Laser Applications (CCL). The benefits of carbon-based coatings are their electrical, thermal, optical and mechanical properties. Industrial applications range from the automotive industry to biocompatible implants, fuel cells, cell phones, and micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMS), sensor technologies, optical and electronic applications.


Rafael Seidl

Reducing Li-ion cell manufacturing defects to near-zero is hugely important because it is these that caused a few cellphones and laptops to burst into flames recently. This safety aspect - and the associated warranty and PR liabilities - is holding back the adoption of this battery chemistry for use in volume production HEVs.

However, R&D work on carbon coatings will arguably have an even bigger impact on fuel use and CO2 emissions by the ground transportation sector, which will still be dominated by ICEs for many years to come. Light duty vehicles are typically operated in part load, where internal friction can dissipate up to 40% of the work done at the piston crowns. Much of this is accounted for by piston rings/liner and camshaft/valve tribology.

Advanced coatings such as diamond-like carbon reduce this sliding friction and enable long-life engine oils. Previously, their expense had limited their use to racing engines. Recent advances in physical vapor deposition (PVD) process technology are making these and similar coatings affordable enough for certain series production applications.

Note also that such coatings may one day allow certain two-stroke engine designs to run without any lubricating oil at all, drastically reducing their HC and PM emissions.


Hanging on the ICE paradigm for dear life, eh? No, not you, Rafael, I was talking to a polar bear.

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