Electronic Design

What Are Micro Fuel Cells?

Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy into electrical energy. The pressing need for green power and the demand for sustainable power backups has motivated a number of companies to consider fuel cells. When fed with hydrogen derived from a renewable energy source, fuel cells emit zero or very low greenhouse emissions.

The micro fuel cell introduces fuel into the cell's anode catalyst layer (Fig. 1). A catalyst at the anode causes the fuel to react with water, producing protons, electrons, and carbon dioxide. The membrane enables protons to pass through to the cathode's catalyst layer. Electrons take an alternate path and flow through the wires of the electronic device, providing electrical power. At the cathode catalyst layer, the protons and electrons recombine and react with oxygen, generating only two byproducts—water vapor and carbon dioxide.

MTI MicroFuel Cells' Mobion system controls the supply of 100% methanol to the cell with uniform distribution across the cell (Fig. 2). It achieves water flow within the cell from the cathode (air) side to the anode (fuel) side using a proprietary pump technique that does not require the complicated recirculation loops or micro-plumbing tools used in other approaches.

This technology reduces parts count, resulting in a smaller system. It's also scalable to a wide range of product options, from accessories to battery replacements, in the commercial and military markets. System prototypes have demonstrated size reductions and performance improvements.

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