January 12, 2009

Tiny fuel cell powered by water

Combine a tiny fuel-cell-on-a-chip with an equally tiny hydrogen generator and you have a self-contained power source smaller than the smallest watch battery.

The prototype fuel cell-hydrogen reactor combo measures 3 by 3 by 1 millimeters. One model produces six hours of electricity per charge of water at 90 microwatts and another produces 26 hours per charge at 30 microwatts.

The hydrogen reactor is a microfluidic device that brings water vapor into contact with metal hydrides. The chemical reaction produces hydrogen, which passes through a porous silicon wall to the fuel cell.

The fuel cell could be used to power portable and micro devices, including micro robots.

Research paper:
Integrated Micro-power Source Based on a Micro-Silicon Fuel Cell and a Micro Electromechanical System Hydrogen Generator
Journal of Power Sources, December 2008

Researchers' homepages:
Shannon Research Group, University of Illinois
Richard I. Masel

Related stories and briefs:
Sugar powers bio battery -- related research
Micro fuel cells get simple -- related research
Micro fuel cell packs power -- related research

Back to ERN January 12/19, 2009



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