French lead partner SCPS (Societé de Conseil et de Prospective Scientifique S.A.) has developed a new kind of conductive metallic foam capable of replacing heavy metallic parts. A cylindrical block of foam is immersed in an aqueous solution thereby coating all the pores with conductive material. The cylinder can be peeled forming a strip of foam which can then be electroplated. Next, the plastic foam is burnt out, leaving the metallic shape, i.e. the 3D structure that can be used as electrodes, the charge-collecting part in batteries for applications in computers and cars.
For example, a copper foam will be used in heat exchangers, where it can replace heavy and cumbersome fins, making a more efficient and compact unit. It will also be utilised in the next generation of hybrid cars with 36V batteries, where more power will be needed for acceleration and deceleration.
Robert Rouget, a Director of SCPS and a 3D STRUCTURE Project Manager, describes the new process as "cheaper, faster and more efficient. The cost is much lower because it uses simple equipment such as plastic containers, at room temperature, under normal pressure."
The developments achieved by SCPS have raised the interest of a venture capital company that specialises in electrochemistry. They have joined other investors, such as Business Angels and company managers, in financing this and other projects. "They are of course involved in all projects developed by the company," says Rouget. "All projects, including 3D STRUCTURES, need to be totally self-funded up to the point where we can demonstrate that the process is operational." This approach works very well for both investor and company as they can see tangible evidence that the project will move from pilot to feasibility phase.
Rouget was very happy with SCPS's involvement in a EUREKA project. He described how there was less paperwork and how smaller projects were possible with as few as two participants: "EUREKA projects are easy to set up and, whilst there is room for R&D, they are focussed on applications."