(Invited) Micro Fuel Cells: Can We Apply Them to a Successful Market?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014: 10:45
Sunrise, 2nd Floor, Galactic Ballroom 7 (Moon Palace Resort)
J. P. Esquivel (Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, Instituto Microelectrónica de Barcelona (IMB-CNM-CSIC)), F. J. Del Campo (Instituto Microelectrónica de Barcelona (IMB-CNM-CSIC)), J. L. Gomez de la Fuente, S. Rojas (Instituto de Catálisis y Petroleoquímica (ICP-CSIC)), and N. Sabate (Instituto Microelectrónica de Barcelona (IMB-CNM-CSIC))
Fuel cells convert chemical energy into electrical energy. Their high energy density together with the possibility to operate at room temperature using liquid fuels identified them as potentially suitable for portable applications more than a decade ago. Despite their promising capabilities, they have failed to oust lithium batteries from the consumer electronics market: batteries have successfully evolved into tiny packages that are very easy to use, rechargeable and that can meet the power demands of current portable appliances. In contrast, fuel cells have to be fed with a liquid fuel and require an ion-conducting membrane that prevents mixing of oxidant and reducing species, which has to be permanently hydrated to ensure optimal performance. The complexity associated to the use of this membrane was overcome some years ago with the development of the so-called microfluidic fuel cells, in which the separation of reactants is achieved by forcing them to flow in parallel in a microfluidic channel at low Reynolds numbers. Microfluidic fuel cells yield significant amounts of energy with a very simple architecture. In her presentation, Dr. Sabaté will talk about what are the challenges and opportunities for micro fuel cells to find a market niche where they can take advantage over other miniaturised power sources.