Low-Cost , Mercury-Free Electirial Switches and Relays

Award Information
Environmental Protection Agency
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Infoscitex Corporation
303 Bear Hill Rd., Waltham, MA, 02451
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Robert Kovar
Principal Scientist
(781) 890-1338
Business Contact:
William Thompson
Contracts Manager
(781) 890-1338
Research Institution:
Mercury is a toxic, volatile metal that is used in electrical switches, relays and motion detectors because of its electrical conductivity, low volatility and fluid properties over a large temperature range. Mercury is released into the atmosphere during incineration of trash containing these discarded items and rapidly migrates to the aquatic environment were it is ingested by fish, presenting a serious, persistent hazard to humans and wildlife. Nearly all fish in the U.S. now contains traces of mercury in amounts that can cause permanent brain damage in children and adults who include fish in their diet. As a result of this hazard, the amount and type of fish recommended for human consumption has been restricted. Infoscitex proposes to develop a new class of mercury-free, electrical switched (MFES) and relays that function efficiently as electrical switches while utilizing environmentally-safe, non-volatile, electrically conductive, organic ionic liquids (IL) in place of mercury metal. The IL component will be designed to exhibit properties that make it ideal for use in an electrical switch; namely, remaining a non-viscous liquid between -40°C and +350°C, being thermal-oxidatively and electrochemically stable and exhibiting resistance to fire. In Phase I, we will first apply computational analysis to identify the most promising IL candidates for synthesis, characterization and testing as low-cost, noon-toxic, electrically conductive liquids that are suitable for use in switches and relays. Selected IL candidates will be tested for non-volatility, electrical conductivity, negative surface meniscus formation and environmental safety. Feasibility will be demonstrated by constructing and testing a simple IL switching device. Our team included experts in ionic liquids and computational analysis and a leading manufacturer of mercury electrical switches and relays. In Phase II, we will refine the MFES, scale-up to larger quantities and produce prototype switches and relays. These will be evaluated for performance at Infoscitex and our electrical switch manufacturer teaming partner who will assist us in commercializing the successful MFES product. The enhanced environmental protection, improved electrical performance and competitive cost of our proposed MFES new product will encourage its immediate acceptance as a drop-in replacement for mercury-containing switches, relays accelerometers and notion detectors in commercial and military automobiles, aircraft, ships and industrial electronic components. Substantial cost savings will be realized due to the elimination of expenses associated with worker safety protection and hazardous waste disposal. The long-term benefit to the environment cannot be overstated.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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