PORTLAND, Ore.—Fuel cells on-a-chip could replace small batteries, according to Harvard University researchers who showed a wafer containing 145 solid-oxide fuel cells.
The research team, led by professor and principal investigator Shriram Ramanathan, had previously proven the concept of fabricating thin-film membranes for solid-oxide fuel cells, but only at sizes too small to replace small batteries. Now the team, in collaboration with SiEnergy Systems LLC (an Allied Minds company in Boston), has demonstrated that the technology can successfully be scaled up.
The team fabricated the tiny fuel-cells with 100-nanometer thick membranes on chips that scaled up their area from 100 microns to 5 millimeters wide, achieving a power density of 155 milliwatts per square centimeter (at 510 degrees Celsius).
Next the team plans to fabricate nanostructured anodes for hydrogen-alternative fuels and microstructured electrodes, which together should enable the tiny fuel cells to replace small batteries.
Funding for the project was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Harvard University Center for Nanoscale Systems, which is a member of the NSF's National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network.
Harvard was able to pack 145 thin-film fuel cell batteries on a single wafer.
I am not sure I understand your concern DrQuine. Are you afraid this tiny cell would explode mid-air? I think a bottle of high proof alcohol is more likely to create more damage, and that is even licensed for internal; consumption!...Kris
Any consumer product will need to be certified safe for travel (and ideally operation) in commercial aircraft. Will that be possible for a device operating at such a high temperature? What would happen if there were a car crash while such a device were in use by a passenger? If the safety issues can be resolved, certainly a long life power source will be much appreciated by our "plugged in" world.
I am still wondering how it operates at 510C? I assume that it must either be: heated or generate the heating from the fuel. Does this lower the achieved efficiency? And further, how does this device work in real life,510C is quite hot..
The missing piece here is that fuel cells need to be fed fuel to operate. I think that we are all curious as to what fuel these would consume and mechanically how it would be fed to chip-type fuel cells. Does anyone know?
What is the life of such a battery? If such battery has to replace a Lithium battery then the expected life should be around 5 years. This concept is very good for batteries used in medical implants like pace makers. Are these batteries explosion proof and safe to use in medical devices?
What does it mean with power rating at high temperature? Does it mean the battery can harvest heat energy into electricity? But what will the source for 510 degrees C? It would be useful if anyone can explain how this fuel cell works.
"achieving a power density of 155 milliwatts per square centimeter (at 510 degrees Celsius)" temperature a bit too high probably. Unless they can build proper heat dissipation mechanisms into the battery itself. Anyone know whats the power density for typical Li-Po battery used in cell phones etc? quick google search shows numbers in wide range from 0.5-75 mW/Cm^2!
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