By Nick Gagliardi
In an effort to radically improve the stability and durability of fuel cells and batteries, Dr. Radenka Maric works tirelessly on her innovative manufacturing process that will redefine the development and cost potential for battery cells nationwide. Dr. Maric, who joined UConn in the fall of 2010, is the School of Engineering Named Professor in Sustainable Energy within the Chemical, Materials & Biomolecular Engineering Department.
Working primarily in the field of alternative energy, Dr. Maric’s goal at UConn is to perfect a low-temperature development process for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) that will considerably improve their performance-to-cost ratio. During her time at the National Research Council of Canada (NRCC), Dr. Maric worked on the development of what is known as reactive spray deposition technology (RSDT). “RSDT flame based processing can produce fuel cell layers more rapidly than traditional techniques, with no need for high-temperature sintering steps,” she said.
While 30 percent of SOFC cost can be attributed to the sintering process, RSDT can potentially lower manufacturing cost, capital cost, and material cost significantly. This process is also easy to automate and can lead to mass production of the cells, further lowering the cost.
Ostensibly, there is no downside to developing fuel cells at low temperatures. The research demonstrates that this technology results in improved stability, high efficiency, and no emissions. As for her work on fuel cell and battery structure, Dr. Maric is also working on the ability to replace the carbon infrastructure with ceramics. Due to the fact that carbon inevitably leads to corrosion, the replacement will increase life while simultaneously reducing cost.
Dr. Maric’s work is internationally recognized, and she currently has four patents on these techniques, two of which are pending. Looking optimistically upon these developments, Dr. Maric remarked, “Through this research, I envision, and look forward to, the opportunity to work with major corporations on the implementation and utilization of these developments for the future coatings in batteries and fuel cells”
Originally trained as a medical doctor, Dr. Maric elected to continue her education by pursuing degrees in engineering. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in material science and engineering from Kyoto University, Japan. From 1996 until 2001, she worked on material processes with fuel cells and batteries at the Japan Fine Ceramics Center. From there, she moved to Atlanta, GA and worked at a build-up lab for Micro Coating Technology known as nGimat. There, she specialized in engineering nanomaterials for thin films, electronic devices, and nanopowders. In 2004, she joined the NRCC, where her research focused on fuel cell innovations. Finally, in August of 2010, she joined the faculty at UConn to continue her research into new methodologies for the development of fuel cells and batteries.