Low Cost Laser Fabrication of Ceramic Components for Power Conversion in Space-Based Laser and Radar Systems

Period of Performance: 05/19/2000 - 05/19/2001


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Triton Systems, Inc.
200 Turnpike Road Array
Chelmsford, MA 01824
Principal Investigator


Triton proposes a major breakthrough in ceramic net shape forming that will enable more reliable and affordable high power generation for space and terrestrial applications. Our approach uniquely addresses the costly, time consuming and multi-step fabrication process currently used to fabricate " Alumina Solid Electrolyte (BASE) tube assemblies for Alkali-Metal Thermal-to-Electric Converters (AMTEC). The innovation is based on recent work at Triton employing Laser Engineered Net Shaping (LENS) to produce otherwise unattainable microstructures in ceramic-reinforced metal matrix composites. This breakthrough will employ LENS to produce fully integrated and functionally graded BASE tube structures in a single process, thus eliminating the need for multiple joints and expansion rings that are complex, costly and can lead to cell failure. Phase I focuses on production of homogeneous monolithic ceramic and functionally graded components. The Phase II will expand the effort to fabricate prototype sub-components with functional grading between ceramic and refractory metal phases. Process modeling techniques, design methodologies and appropriate performance tests will be conducted to demonstrate proof of concept. Phase III will encompass more extensive space qualification testing followed by manufacturing scale-up to produce the required volume and quality of BASE tube assemblies in the United States. This computer controlled one-step fabrication process promises to yield more robust components at a lower cost than current manufacturing methods, enabling AMTEC to be employed in high power generation platforms such as Space-Based Laser (SBL) and Space-Based Radar (SBR). The availability of high power in space will also significantly enhance data transmission and communication rates via satellites for both military and commercial applications. Terrestrial applications for AMTEC include silent, remote power generation for military operations, solar power conversion, heavy duty trucks and commercial/home furnace attachments. Most terrestrial applications will take waste heat and convert it to useful energy, thus preserving fossil fuel resources.