With State of Ohio funding, researchers at Case Western Reserve University will help businesses in northeast Ohio build and bring to market better lithium-ion batteries and solid oxide fuel cell systems.

In late December, Gov. Ted Strickland and other officials approved a total of $19.2 million in Ohio Third Frontier grants for 19 projects.

Case Western Reserve scientists, who are members of the Great Lakes Energy Institute based at the university, are involved in two projects.

In the first, Daniel Scherson of the chemistry department at Case Western Reserve will work with Novolyte Technologies to develop new electrolytes that reduce or eliminate the flammability of Li-ion batteries and improve the power output, enabling larger batteries that can be used in motor vehicles.

Ohio granted that project $1.12 million. Scherson, whose lab will receive about half the funding, and Martin Payne, Novolyte’s global technology manager, are developing tools to rapidly evaluate which combinations of chemicals perform best and safest, test the mixes and get the new technologies to battery makers.

Professors Arthur Heuer and Mark DeGuire in the Case School of Engineering are working with Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems to determine the long-term reliability of a 1 MW SOFC system connected to the grid for distributed power generation applications. The project was awarded $999,770.

Heuer, DeGuire and Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems’ engineers will analyze the structural, mechanical and electrochemical characteristics of the complex ceramic system, as well as the manufacturing process for the system. They hope their work will advance the robustness of SOFCs. The researchers will develop a model to predict system reliability, enabling Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems to move the system to market.

Although the Rolls-Royce name is closely associated with luxury cars, the company is actually diversified and seems to have a strategy of developing utility-scale SOFC products. In the past, the company has discussed using a proprietary method of creating fuel cells by screen printing materials onto a ceramic substrate, and a SOFC–gas turbine hybrid using natural gas