Company developing wearable fuel cells plan Miss. shop

Published 5:36 pm Friday, December 8, 2006

A company that manufactures wearable fuel cells plans to open a facility here and will work with Mississippi State University researchers to refine products that have both civilian and military applications, officials said.

The specific site for the Ardica Technologies facility has not been determined, said Colin Scanes, the university’s research vice president, on Thursday.

Tom Covington, chief executive officer of a San Francisco-based company that develops innovative micro fuel-cell products, said Ardica will grow to 10 employees in 2007 and expand its production staff over time. Mississippi State graduates are expected to compete for jobs.

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“Ardica is excited about this opportunity and the potential it represents,” Covington said.

Scanes said Ardica will be pursuing both manufacturing and research.

“We have an agreement that two-thirds of their research will be done in Mississippi,” he said.

Ardica produces hydrogen cartridges and fuel cells that can be used for a wide range of applications. The company will collaborate with MSU chemical engineers conducting similar research on portable power sources.

“The Ardica fuel cells are safe, high-energy density, disposable, environmentally benign, inexpensive, simple, flexible and body-friendly portable sources of power,” Scanes said.

The company is expected to make its products available in late 2007 and hopes to achieve a steady production flow by 2015.

The joint Ardica-MSU research effort also will address the design, development and demonstration of a highly novel hybrid fuel cell-battery portable power system for use by the U.S. military, university officials said. Two key technologies involved in the project are proton exchange membrane fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries.

“It is envisioned that the proposed hybrid portable power system technology will significantly reduce the war fighter’s operational burden and improve mission effectiveness through extended endurance of soldier-borne electronic systems,” said Gary Butler, technology director for the MSU research office.

Ardica already is developing commercial products from its San Francisco base and has conducted initial work on a military product to power soldiers and other front-line personnel.