Design of New Power Source Based on Micro-SOFC for Mobile Electronic Devices

Thursday, 30 July 2015
Hall 2 (Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre)
S. Murayama (Tohoku University), F. Iguchi (Tohoku University, Japan), M. Shimizu, S. Tanaka (Tohoku University), and H. Yugami (Tohoku University, Japan)
Low operating temperature micro solid oxide fuel cell (micro-SOFC) systems which utilize liquid fuels are attractive for high energy efficiency and density. Long time operation is possible for micro-SOFCs by refueling and it is not restricted by battery charge. Hence, it is expected to alternative power source for compact mobile electronic devices which consume a large amount of power. In previous, diverse types of micro-SOFCs focused on its performance was reported and a maximum power density of 1 W/cm2 at 500oC was achieved. However, they have many problems of durability and repeatability for practical use. Additionally, it is necessary to consider how to heat up micro-SOFC cells to operating temperature, compatibility with other electronic circuits and thermally self-sustained condition.

     In this study, micro-SOFC system was proposed in order to adopt the micro-SOFCs into a power source of compact mobile electric devices. We designed the micro-SOFC package with thermal insulation and heat exchanger. Its insulation performance was experimentally confirmed and power generation test with micro heater in the micro-SOFC package was performed.

Micro-SOFC packages require thermal insulation to keep the surface temperature below about 85oC, which is the maximum operating temperature of other electronic circuits. We applied vacuum insulation widely used for thermal insulation in MEMS devices to the package. The heat of the exhaust gas was recovered by the liquid fuel through heat exchanger. From the calculation of temperature distribution by the finite element method, surface temperature of the package was kept from 57 to 88oC when operating temperature is 500oC. As long as the liquid is evaporated, temperature of the heat exchanger is kept constant. Therefore, heat conduction from high temperature glass flow channels to vacuum insulator was prevented and low surface temperature was achieved.

Applying micro-SOFC system as independent power sources, thermally self-sustained condition is required, i.e. micro-SOFC packages should keep operating temperature more than 300oC only by the generated heat from reaction of fuel cells during power generation. For thermally self-sustained condition, the amount of heat generated during power generation needs to exceed that of heat loss from surface of the package and transferred heat by exhaust gas. We calculated thermally self-sustained condition of a micro-SOFC system with 4 W output fueled by methanol and water that has reformer and heat exchanger from exhaust gas. From the result, generated heat from reaction of fuel cells was 4.8W, heat loss from surface was 1.5 W and transferred heat by exhaust gas was 4.6 W at 500oC. The result confirmed that transferred heat by exhaust gas was dominated in this system. Hence, recovering the heat of exhaust gas with the gas-liquid heat exchanger was essential to achieve thermally self-sustained condition.

     Micro-SOFC cells and micro heater were fabricated in general MEMS technology. Power generation test and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy of micro-SOFC (Pt-Pd | 15 mol% Y-doped BaZrO3 | Pt-Pd) by micro heater were measured in the temperature range of 200-330oC. A maximum power density of 1.12 mW/cm2 and open circuit voltage of 1.09 V at 330oC were obtained using wet H2 as fuel and air as the oxidant. As a result of impedance measurement, electrode reaction resistance was very high in cell total resistance. Therefore, the improvement of electrode will reduce cell resistance to a level for actual utility.

We actually fabricated the micro-SOFC package installed vacuum structure and heat exchanger to evaluate cooling performance of the insulation package and performed power generation test in the package. In the case of heat exchanger filled with 50 vol% ethanol solution, surface temperature was 89.6oC when micro heater temperature was 500oC. In accordance with the result, it was possible to keep surface temperature of the package sufficiently low with heat exchanger. As a result of power generation test of micro-SOFC inside the package, a maximum power density of 1.27 mW/cm2 and open circuit voltage of 0.94 V at 300oC were obtained using wet 25% or 50% H2 as fuel and air as the oxidant. Additionally, surface temperature of the package was kept under 80oC. Therefore I achieved power generation in compact micro-SOFC system with thermal insulation.

     The micro-SOFC package was designed for applying micro-SOFCs to power source of mobile electronic devices in this study. As a result of calculation, the package installed vacuum insulation and heat exchanger could achieve thermally self-sustained condition and low surface temperature. Power generation test of micro-SOFC inside the prototype package was achieved and the package kept low surface temperature. Hence, this study presented that applicability of micro-SOFC system to power source for compact mobile electronic devices.