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Direct Methanol Fuel Cells

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Direct methanol fuel cells provide an alternative power source for mobile devices.
Direct methanol fuel cells provide an alternative power source for mobile devices.

Technology Marketing SummaryLANL has developed an intellectual property portfolio in Direct Methanol Fuel Cells that may permit companies to participate in the emerging DMFC market while minimizing R&D risks and expenditures. Our partners gain access to one of the most advanced and experienced direct methanol fuel cell research teams in the world. We invite you to explore the opportunities available through partnering with LANL to remove the final obstacles and bring DMFC technology to market.DescriptionDirect Methanol Fuel Cells (DMFCs) represent an innovative, cutting-edge technology that can provide mobile power to devices such as cell phones, laptop computers, and digital video cameras. After decades of fuel cell research, scientists and engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) are working to remove the final obstacles preventing widespread adoption of DMFCs. LANL is now inviting participation from companies ready to cooperate with leading fuel cell researchers, in-license select technologies, and commercialize direct methanol fuel cell technology.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering the approval of DMFC power packs for use on airplanes. As with other potentially disruptive technologies, the participants in this entry market niche for extended in-flight mobile device power will enjoy a significant and sustained competitive advantage in the broader power pack market. The potential costs of ignoring this emerging technology are large. On the other hand, the cost and risk of “going it alone” and relying exclusively on internal development are also very high. Partnering with LANL represents an attractive alternative to these costly strategies.
BenefitsImproved DMFC performance
Reduced cost of R&D
Reduced risk of R&D
Reduced development cycle
Design freedom (IP)
Applications and IndustriesHigh power density stacks
Air breathing DMFCs
Membranes
Catalysts
Flow-field designs
Bipolar plate designs
Methanol Sensors
Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Date
Patent 5,641,586
Patent
5,641,586
Fuel cell with interdigitated porous flow-field
A polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell is formed with an improved system for distributing gaseous reactants to the membrane surface. A PEM fuel cell has an ionic transport membrane with opposed catalytic surfaces formed thereon and separates gaseous reactants that undergo reactions at the catalytic surfaces of the membrane. The fuel cell may also include a thin gas diffusion layer having first and second sides with a first side contacting at least one of the catalytic surfaces. A macroporous flow-field with interdigitated inlet and outlet reactant channels contacts the second side of the thin gas diffusion layer for distributing one of the gaseous reactants over the thin gas diffusion layer for transport to an adjacent one of the catalytic surfaces of the membrane. The porous flow field may be formed from a hydrophilic material and provides uniform support across the backside of the electrode assembly to facilitate the use of thin backing layers.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 06/24/1997
Issued
Patent 5,798,187
Patent
5,798,187
Fuel cell with metal screen flow-field
A polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell is provided with electrodes supplied with a reactant on each side of a catalyzed membrane assembly (CMA). The fuel cell includes a metal mesh defining a rectangular flow-field pattern having an inlet at a first corner and an outlet at a second corner located on a diagonal from the first corner, wherein all flow paths from the inlet to the outlet through the square flow field pattern are equivalent to uniformly distribute the reactant over the CMA. In a preferred form of metal mesh, a square weave screen forms the flow-field pattern. In a particular characterization of the present invention, a bipolar plate electrically connects adjacent fuel cells, where the bipolar plate includes a thin metal foil having an anode side and a cathode side; a first metal mesh on the anode side of the thin metal foil; and a second metal mesh on the cathode side of the thin metal foil. In another characterization of the present invention, a cooling plate assembly cools adjacent fuel cells, where the cooling plate assembly includes an anode electrode and a cathode electrode formed of thin conducting foils; and a metal mesh flow field therebetween for distributing cooling water flow over the electrodes to remove heat generated by the fuel cells.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 08/25/1998
Issued
Patent 5,952,119
Patent
5,952,119
Fuel cell membrane humidification
A polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell assembly has an anode side and a cathode side separated by the membrane and generating electrical current by electrochemical reactions between a fuel gas and an oxidant. The anode side comprises a hydrophobic gas diffusion backing contacting one side of the membrane and having hydrophilic areas therein for providing liquid water directly to the one side of the membrane through the hydrophilic areas of the gas diffusion backing. In a preferred embodiment, the hydrophilic areas of the gas diffusion backing are formed by sewing a hydrophilic thread through the backing. Liquid water is distributed over the gas diffusion backing in distribution channels that are separate from the fuel distribution channels.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 09/14/1999
Issued
Patent 6,296,964
Patent
6,296,964
Enhanced methanol utilization in direct methanol fuel cell
The fuel utilization of a direct methanol fuel cell is enhanced for improved cell efficiency. Distribution plates at the anode and cathode of the fuel cell are configured to distribute reactants vertically and laterally uniformly over a catalyzed membrane surface of the fuel cell. A conductive sheet between the anode distribution plate and the anodic membrane surface forms a mass transport barrier to the methanol fuel that is large relative to a mass transport barrier for a gaseous hydrogen fuel cell. In a preferred embodiment, the distribution plate is a perforated corrugated sheet. The mass transport barrier may be conveniently increased by increasing the thickness of an anode conductive sheet adjacent the membrane surface of the fuel cell.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 10/02/2001
Issued
Patent 6,458,479
Patent
6,458,479
Air breathing direct methanol fuel cell
An air breathing direct methanol fuel cell is provided with a membrane electrode assembly, a conductive anode assembly that is permeable to air and directly open to atmospheric air, and a conductive cathode assembly that is permeable to methanol and directly contacting a liquid methanol source. Water loss from the cell is minimized by making the conductive cathode assembly hydrophobic and the conductive anode assembly hydrophilic.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 10/01/2002
Issued
Patent 6,488,837
Patent
6,488,837
Methanol sensor operated in a passive mode
A sensor outputs a signal related to a concentration of methanol in an aqueous solution adjacent the sensor. A membrane electrode assembly (MEA) is included with an anode side and a cathode side. An anode current collector supports the anode side of the MEA and has a flow channel therethrough for flowing a stream of the aqueous solution and forms a physical barrier to control access of the methanol to the anode side of the MEA. A cathode current collector supports the cathode side of the MEA and is configured for air access to the cathode side of the MEA. A current sensor is connected to measure the current in a short circuit across the sensor electrodes to provide an output signal functionally related to the concentration of methanol in the aqueous solution.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 12/03/2002
Issued
Patent 6,492,052
Patent
6,492,052
Air breathing direct methanol fuel cell
An air breathing direct methanol fuel cell is provided with a membrane electrode assembly, a conductive anode assembly that is permeable to air and directly open to atmospheric air, and a conductive cathode assembly that is permeable to methanol and directly contacting a liquid methanol source.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 12/10/2002
Issued
Patent 6,696,382
Patent
6,696,382
Catalyst inks and method of application for direct methanol fuel cells
Inks are formulated for forming anode and cathode catalyst layers and applied to anode and cathode sides of a membrane for a direct methanol fuel cell. The inks comprise a Pt catalyst for the cathode and a Pt--Ru catalyst for the anode, purified water in an amount 4 to 20 times that of the catalyst by weight, and a perfluorosulfonic acid ionomer in an amount effective to provide an ionomer content in the anode and cathode surfaces of 20% to 80% by volume. The inks are prepared in a two-step process while cooling and agitating the solutions. The final solution is placed in a cooler and continuously agitated while spraying the solution over the anode or cathode surface of the membrane as determined by the catalyst content.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 02/24/2004
Issued
Patent 6,808,838
Patent
6,808,838
Direct methanol fuel cell and system
A fuel cell having an anode and a cathode and a polymer electrolyte membrane located between anode and cathode gas diffusion backings uses a methanol vapor fuel supply. A permeable polymer electrolyte membrane having a permeability effective to sustain a carbon dioxide flux equivalent to at least 10 mA/cm.sup.2 provides for removal of carbon dioxide produced at the anode by reaction of methanol with water. Another aspect of the present invention includes a superabsorpent polymer material placed in proximity to the anode gas diffusion backing to hold liquid methanol or liquid methanol solution without wetting the anode gas diffusion backing so that methanol vapor from the liquid methanol or liquid methanol-water solution is supplied to the membrane.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 10/26/2004
Issued
Patent 6,864,004
Patent
6,864,004
Direct methanol fuel cell stack
A stack of direct methanol fuel cells exhibiting a circular footprint. A cathode and anode manifold, tie-bolt penetrations and tie-bolts are located within the circular footprint. Each fuel cell uses two graphite-based plates. One plate includes a cathode active area that is defined by serpentine channels connecting the inlet and outlet cathode manifold. The other plate includes an anode active area defined by serpentine channels connecting the inlet and outlet of the anode manifold, where the serpentine channels of the anode are orthogonal to the serpentine channels of the cathode. Located between the two plates is the fuel cell active region.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 03/08/2005
Issued
Patent 6,962,760
Patent
6,962,760
Methods of conditioning direct methanol fuel cells
Methods for conditioning the membrane electrode assembly of a direct methanol fuel cell ("DMFC") are disclosed. In a first method, an electrical current of polarity opposite to that used in a functioning direct methanol fuel cell is passed through the anode surface of the membrane electrode assembly. In a second method, methanol is supplied to an anode surface of the membrane electrode assembly, allowed to cross over the polymer electrolyte membrane of the membrane electrode assembly to a cathode surface of the membrane electrode assembly, and an electrical current of polarity opposite to that in a functioning direct methanol fuel cell is drawn through the membrane electrode assembly, wherein methanol is oxidized at the cathode surface of the membrane electrode assembly while the catalyst on the anode surface is reduced. Surface oxides on the direct methanol fuel cell anode catalyst of the membrane electrode assembly are thereby reduced.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 11/08/2005
Issued
Patent 7,014,931
Patent
7,014,931
Methanol-tolerant cathode catalyst composite for direct methanol fuel cells
A direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) having a methanol fuel supply, oxidant supply, and its membrane electrode assembly (MEA) formed of an anode electrode and a cathode electrode with a membrane therebetween, a methanol oxidation catalyst adjacent the anode electrode and the membrane, an oxidant reduction catalyst adjacent the cathode electrode and the membrane, comprises an oxidant reduction catalyst layer of a platinum-chromium alloy so that oxidation at the cathode of methanol that crosses from the anode through the membrane to the cathode is reduced with a concomitant increase of net electrical potential at the cathode electrode.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 03/21/2006
Issued
Patent 7,101,635
Patent
7,101,635
Methanol-tolerant cathode catalyst composite for direct methanol fuel cells
A direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) having a methanol fuel supply, oxidant supply, and its membrane electrode assembly (MEA) formed of an anode electrode and a cathode electrode with a membrane therebetween, a methanol oxidation catalyst adjacent the anode electrode and the membrane, an oxidant reduction catalyst adjacent the cathode electrode and the membrane, comprises an oxidant reduction catalyst layer of Pt.sub.3Cr/C so that oxidation at the cathode of methanol that crosses from the anode through the membrane to the cathode is reduced with a concomitant increase of net electrical potential at the cathode electrode.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 09/05/2006
Issued
Patent 7,214,442
Patent
7,214,442
High specific power, direct methanol fuel cell stack
The present invention is a fuel cell stack including at least one direct methanol fuel cell. A cathode manifold is used to convey ambient air to each fuel cell, and an anode manifold is used to convey liquid methanol fuel to each fuel cell. Tie-bolt penetrations and tie-bolts are spaced evenly around the perimeter to hold the fuel cell stack together. Each fuel cell uses two graphite-based plates. One plate includes a cathode active area that is defined by serpentine channels connecting the inlet manifold with an integral flow restrictor to the outlet manifold. The other plate includes an anode active area defined by serpentine channels connecting the inlet and outlet of the anode manifold. Located between the two plates is the fuel cell active region.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 05/08/2007
Issued
Patent 5,234,777
Patent
5,234,777
Membrane catalyst layer for fuel cells
A gas reaction fuel cell incorporates a thin catalyst layer between a solid polymer electrolyte (SPE) membrane and a porous electrode backing. The catalyst layer is preferably less than about 10 .mu.m in thickness with a carbon supported platinum catalyst loading less than about 0.35 mgPt/cm.sup.2. The film is formed as an ink that is spread and cured on a film release blank. The cured film is then transferred to the SPE membrane and hot pressed into the surface to form a catalyst layer having a controlled thickness and catalyst distribution. Alternatively, the catalyst layer is formed by applying a Na.sup.+ form of a perfluorosulfonate ionomer directly to the membrane, drying the film at a high temperature, and then converting the film back to the protonated form of the ionomer. The layer has adequate gas permeability so that cell performance is not affected and has a density and particle distribution effective to optimize proton access to the catalyst and electronic continuity for electron flow from the half-cell reaction occurring at the catalyst.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 08/10/1993
Issued
Patent 5,211,984
Patent
5,211,984
Membrane catalyst layer for fuel cells
A gas reaction fuel cell incorporates a thin catalyst layer between a solid polymer electrolyte (SPE) membrane and a porous electrode backing. The catalyst layer is preferably less than about 10 .mu.m in thickness with a carbon supported platinum catalyst loading less than about 0.35 mgPt/cm.sup.2. The film is formed as an ink that is spread and cured on a film release blank. The cured film is then transferred to the SPE membrane and hot pressed into the surface to form a catalyst layer having a controlled thickness and catalyst distribution. Alternatively, the catalyst layer is formed by applying a Na.sup.+ form of a perfluorosulfonate ionomer directly to the membrane, drying the film at a high temperature, and then converting the film back to the protonated form of the ionomer. The layer has adequate gas permeability so that cell performance is not affected and has a density and particle distribution effective to optimize proton access to the catalyst and electronic continuity for electron flow from the half-cell reaction occurring at the catalyst.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 05/18/1993
Issued
Technology Status
Development StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
PrototypeAvailable07/14/201004/04/2013

Contact LANL About This Technology

To: Laura Barber<ljbb@lanl.gov>