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24.10.18

AMAG @ Stanford Energy 3.0

As part of the “Stanford Energy 3.0” program that is aimed at giving companies from Austria an insight into Silicon Valley our technologist Katharina Regl had the opportunity of participating in a summer program offered in Stanford. Best to let her report on this herself:

We were able to visit two lectures that currently address probably the most topical issues - batteries and 3D print. It quickly became evident that the two speakers were aficionados in this field. Dr. Jan Torgersen (speaker of the Additive Manufacturing course) is a professor at the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering of NTNU Trondheim (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) and gives lectures at the Department of Mechanical Engineering in Stanford in the summer. The second course (Applied Electrochemistry at Micro- and Nanoscale) addresses the topic of energy storage for the automotive industry. Basic research on this topic remains within very modest realms. Here the energy of individual atom structures is calculated, while the overriding aim of a car battery that charges swiftly and has a long life is not overlooked in these endeavors. Speaker Dr. Rainer Fasching is a professor at Stanford University and has registered more than 30 patents in the field of power storage. In addition, he is the co-founder of several firms dedicated to developing batteries (e.g.: the Quantumscape Corporation).

The campus of Stanford University - AMAG @ Stanford
The campus of Stanford University

We visited several university laboratories in which, among other things, individual atomic layers are applied using Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) facilities built by the laboratories themselves with a view to improving on designing more efficient fuel cells. The measurement equipment for these mini fuel cells was also developed here. The technology of combining individual layers of atoms is still in its infancy. However, possibility of serial production is estimated to be five years down the line.

 

We were able to establish contact with students in study groups, familiarize ourselves with the American way of life and work in Silicon Valley and experience what it means to study and conduct research at an elite university. We maintained a very close contact with other professors as well. They told us about their research work and the differences in comparison with Austrian universities as some of them had also taught and done research there as well. One remarkable difference compared with the universities in Austria is that Stanford University is owned privately and is self-funded. This is possible, on the one hand, through a great deal of land that is leased and, on the other, through research work with corporates, donations by former students and companies, and through student contributions that amount to around USD 65,000 a year for a bachelor’s degree. If the education budget is calculated as a sum total across all Austrian universities, Stanford is still way out ahead.

 

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I got to know America in all its contradictions and a new world of work and developments. I would like to offer my thanks for this unique opportunity that enabled me to expand my horizons and learn a great deal.

A further impressive aspect is the huge diversity of specialist areas (over 90) and research methods applied here. Along with several 3D printers for plastics and metals, wind tunnels, hospitals and many small laboratories that, among other activities, build high-end devices themselves, there is a particle accelerator operated by the University and available for research.

Katharina Regl - AMAG Technologist

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