A Closer Look into AME
By Anushee Sondhi
What is AME?
Advanced Manufacturing for Energy (AME) is a laboratory based in UC Berkeley’s Etcheverry Hall that works to develop novel technology that integrates energy generation, harvesting, monitoring, sensing and storage into one device. The most immediate goal of the laboratory is to find an inexpensive, fast way to print batteries and capacitors, so that the application of existing devices can be expanded.
AME evolved from the Berkeley Manufacturing Institute (BMI), which primarily focused on machining, mold making, and metal cutting. From there, AME shifted its focus onto rapid manufacturing and prototyping, which led to the laboratory’s partnerships with enterprises like Intel Corporation and Ford Motor Company. With such partnerships at hand, AME was able to execute several successful projects.
For example, Intel developed a small sensor platform and partnered with AME to come up with a unique and beneficial application for the technology. Working with the Chicago Fire Department and the Berkeley Fire Department and using Intel’s sensor platform as a starting point, AME worked on Fire Information and Rescue Equipment (FIRE), its fire-sensing project. AME successfully developed technology that increases firefighters’ awareness regarding the fire location; a sensor grid that, when implemented in a building, can track firefighters; and, a system of triangulation that allows the incident commander to communicate with firefighters within the building.
Since then, AME has also partnered with organizations like the California Energy Commission on projects regarding subjects like thermostats and gas lines. With its Underground Cables Project, AME has developed sensor unit that can warn people ahead of time in case of another potential explosion like the San Bruno pipeline explosion of 2010. The sensor unit wraps around a line cable and reads its magnetic fields, which, if damaged, are cause for concern. This technology is especially beneficial because it allows for testing on the cables while they are still live, as opposed to shutting off the entire grid for testing.
Dan Chapman, the lab manager for AME, states, “BECI has helped fund undergraduates and graduates in research of printed batteries and self-powered sensors,” and emphasizes the importance of increasing awareness about the societal benefits of such technology, developed in the AME laboratory.
AME Today and its Future
Today, AME is in the second round of funding for its current project, Flextech Alliance, an organization that is dedicated to expanding electronic intelligence, specifically in the realm of flexible and printed technology. Flextech Alliance is a tremendous step towards AME’s ultimate goal of creating one inexpensive, cohesive instrument that is able to generate, harvest, monitor, sense and store energy. Making such technology that is easily accessible and can be adapted to any situation, whether it be a fire or a damaged cable, can have profound benefits. AME envisions a future in which the safety of all individuals is guaranteed, cost-effective, and simple.