Fuel cell stacks contain an electrolyte layer surrounded on top and bottom by an electrode layer. Porous electrodes are prepared which enable fuel and oxidant to easily flow to the respective electrode-electrolyte interface without the need for high temperatures or pressures to assist the flow. Rigid, inert microspheres in combination with thin-film metal deposition techniques are used to fabricate porous anodes, cathodes, and electrolytes. Microshperes contained in a liquid are randomly dispersed onto a host structure and dried such that the microsperes remain in position. A thin-film deposition technique is subsequently employed to deposit a metal layer onto the microsperes. After such metal layer deposition, the microspheres are removed leaving voids, i.e. pores, in the metal layer, thus forming a porous electrode. Successive repetitions of the fabrication process result in the formation of a continuous fuel cell stack. Such stacks may produce power outputs ranging from about 0.1 Watt to about 50 Watts.
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.