A micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) based thin-film fuel cells for electrical power applications. The MEMS-based fuel cell may be of a solid oxide type (SOFC) having a thickness of 0.5-50 .mu.m at a temperature below 600.degree. C. and a thickness of 0.5-7.5 .mu.m at a temperature over 600.degree. C., or a solid polymer type (SPFC), or a proton exchange membrane type (PEMFC), each operating below 600.degree. C. and having a thickness of 0.5-50 .mu.m, and each fuel cell basically consists of an anode and a cathode separated by an electrolyte layer. The electrolyte layer can consist of either a solid oxide or solid polymer material, or proton exchange membrane electrolyte materials may be used. Additionally catalyst layers can also separate the electrodes (cathode and anode) from the electrolyte. Gas manifolds are utilized to transport the fuel and oxidant to each cell and provide a path for exhaust gases. The electrical current generated from each cell is drawn away with an interconnect and support structure integrated with the gas manifold. The fuel cells utilize integrated resistive heaters for efficient heating of the materials. By combining MEMS technology with thin-film deposition technology, thin-film fuel cells having microflow channels and full-integrated circuitry can be produced that will lower the operating temperature an will yield an order of magnitude greater power density than the currently known fuel cells.
 The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.