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MEMS Fuel Cells--Low Temp--High Power Density

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

Rechargeable batteries presently provide limited energy density and cyclical lifetime for portable power applications, with only incremental improvements forecasted in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, recharging requires access to electrical outlets via a tethered charger. The MEMS Fuel Cell represents a disruptive power source technology that can avoid many of these problems. It uses easy-to-store liquid fuels such as methanol and provides more than three times the operating time possible with rechargeable batteries. In addition, one can “refuel” the Fuel Cell by instantaneously swapping out the fuel cartridge. Finally, it is much easier to recycle than a battery and contains fewer toxic chemicals.

Description

The miniature fuel-cell technology uses thin-film fuel cells which combine microcircuit processes, microfluidic components, and micro-electrical-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology. The MEMS based fuel cell uses a thin layer of electrolyte material sandwiched between electrode materials containing appropriately proportioned catalyst materials. Microfluidic control elements distribute fuel mixtures through a silicon chip over one electrode surface while air is simultaneously distributed over the other electrode. In addition, new LLNL technology has a three-dimensional microfluidic flow field architecture, along with the porous electrolyte support structures, which offers significant advantages to increase the volumetric power density of the fuel cell, as well as to manufacture the fuel cell via a continuous integration approach. Combining this high power density architecture with the microfluidic fuel processor and advanced thermally insulated packaging provides a scalable, high energy density portable power source.

Benefits

MEMS based fuel cells offer the following advantages over batteries:

  • Instantaneous recharge via fuel cartridge swapping
  • Lighter weight, higher volumetric power, energy density
  • Longer lasting
  • Reduced life cycle cost in comparison to rechargeable batteries

The MEMS based fuel cell offers the following advantages over other micro-fuel cells:

  • Fewer individual parts
  • Easier to produce
  • Can take advantage of the economy of scale offered by silicon fabrication
Applications and Industries

With the advantage listed above, MEMS based fuel cells could replace rechargeable batteries in a number of applications:

  • Power for portable computers
  • Power for cell phones and other handheld devices
  • Power for remote sensors and electronics
  • Backup power for emergencies
Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Date
Application 20050207953
Application
20050207953
High aspect ratio chemical microreactor
A chemical microreactor with a high aspect ratio. In one embodiment the chemical microreactor has a chemical microreactor section with channels having a height and with spacings having a width. There is a high aspect ratio of the height to the width. The high aspect ratio in one embodiment is more than substantially 5:1. The high aspect ratio in another embodiment is more than substantially 10:1. The high aspect ratio another embodiment is more than substantially 15:1. The high aspect ratio in one embodiment is substantially 20:1.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 07/20/2004
Filed
Patent 5,601,938
Patent
5,601,938
Carbon aerogel electrodes for direct energy conversion
A direct energy conversion device, such as a fuel cell, using carbon aerogel electrodes, wherein the carbon aerogel is loaded with a noble catalyst, such as platinum or rhodium and soaked with phosphoric acid, for example. A separator is located between the electrodes, which are placed in a cylinder having plate current collectors positioned adjacent the electrodes and connected to a power supply, and a pair of gas manifolds, containing hydrogen and oxygen positioned adjacent the current collectors. Due to the high surface area and excellent electrical conductivity of carbon aerogels, the problems relative to high polarization resistance of carbon composite electrodes conventionally used in fuel cells are overcome.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 02/11/1997
Issued
Patent 6,921,603
Patent
6,921,603
Microfluidic fuel cell systems with embedded materials and structures and method thereof
Described herein is a process for fabricating microfluidic systems with embedded components in which micron-scale features are molded into the polymeric material polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). Micromachining is used to create a mold master and the liquid precursors for PDMS are poured over the mold and allowed to cure. The PDMS is then removed form the mold and bonded to another material such as PDMS, glass, or silicon after a simple surface preparation step to form sealed microchannels.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 07/26/2005
Issued
Patent 6,960,235
Patent
6,960,235
Chemical microreactor and method thereof
A chemical microreactor suitable for generation of hydrogen fuel from liquid sources such as ammonia, methanol, and butane through steam reforming processes when mixed with an appropriate amount of water contains capillary microchannels with integrated resistive heaters to facilitate the occurrence of catalytic steam reforming reactions. One such microreactor employs a packed catalyst capillary microchannel and at least one porous membrane. Another employs a porous membrane with a large surface area or a porous membrane support structure containing a plurality of porous membranes having a large surface area in the aggregate, i.e., greater than about 1 m.sup.2 /cm.sup.3. The packed catalyst capillary microchannels, porous membranes and porous membrane support structures may be formed by a variety of methods.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 11/01/2005
Issued
Patent 6,960,403
Patent
6,960,403
Bonded polyimide fuel cell package and method thereof
Described herein are processes for fabricating microfluidic fuel cell systems with embedded components in which micron-scale features are formed by bonding layers of DuPont Kapton.TM. polyimide laminate. A microfluidic fuel cell system fabricated using this process is also described.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 11/01/2005
Issued
Patent 7,122,261
Patent
7,122,261
Metal hydride fuel storage and method thereof
Disclosed herein is a metal hydride fuel storage cartridge having integrated resistive heaters that can be used in conjunction with fuel cells such as MEMS-based fuel cells. The cartridge is fabricated using micromachining methods and thin/thick film materials synthesis techniques.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 10/17/2006
Issued
Patent 7,186,352
Patent
7,186,352
Microfluidic systems with embedded materials and structures and method thereof
Described herein is a process for fabricating microfluidic systems with embedded components in which micron-scale features are molded into the polymeric material polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). Micromachining is used to create a mold master and the liquid precursors for PDMS are poured over the mold and allowed to cure. The PDMS is then removed form the mold and bonded to another material such as PDMS, glass, or silicon after a simple surface preparation step to form sealed microchannels.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 03/06/2007
Issued
Patent 7,527,659
Patent
7,527,659
Metal hydride fuel storage and method thereof
Disclosed herein is a metal hydride fuel storage cartridge having integrated resistive heaters that can be used in conjunction with fuel cells such as MEMS-based fuel cells. The cartridge is fabricated using micromachining methods and thin/thick film materials synthesis techniques.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 05/05/2009
Issued
Patent 7,534,402
Patent
7,534,402
Method for forming a chemical microreactor
Disclosed is a chemical microreactor that provides a means to generate hydrogen fuel from liquid sources such as ammonia, methanol, and butane through steam reforming processes when mixed with an appropriate amount of water. The microreactor contains capillary microchannels with integrated resistive heaters to facilitate the occurrence of catalytic steam reforming reactions. Two distinct embodiment styles are discussed. One embodiment style employs a packed catalyst capillary microchannel and at least one porous membrane. Another embodiment style employs a porous membrane with a large surface area or a porous membrane support structure containing a plurality of porous membranes having a large surface area in the aggregate, i.e., greater than about 1 m.sup.2/cm.sup.3. Various methods to form packed catalyst capillary microchannels, porous membranes and porous membrane support structures are also disclosed.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 05/19/2009
Issued
Patent 7,732,086
Patent
7,732,086
Bonded polyimide fuel cell package
Described herein are processes for fabricating microfluidic fuel cell systems with embedded components in which micron-scale features are formed by bonding layers of DuPont Kapton.TM. polyimide laminate. A microfluidic fuel cell system fabricated using this process is also described.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 06/08/2010
Issued
Patent 7,744,830
Patent
7,744,830
Catalyst for microelectromechanical systems microreactors
A microreactor comprising a silicon wafer, a multiplicity of microchannels in the silicon wafer, and a catalyst coating the microchannels. In one embodiment the catalyst coating the microchannels comprises a nanostructured material. In another embodiment the catalyst coating the microchannels comprises an aerogel. In another embodiment the catalyst coating the microchannels comprises a solgel. In another embodiment the catalyst coating the microchannels comprises carbon nanotubes.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 06/29/2010
Issued
Patent 7,931,993
Patent
7,931,993
Method of preparation of bonded polyimide fuel cell package
Described herein are processes for fabricating microfluidic fuel cell systems with embedded components in which micron-scale features are formed by bonding layers of DuPont Kapton.TM. polyimide laminate. A microfluidic fuel cell system fabricated using this process is also described.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 04/26/2011
Issued
Patent 8,057,988
Patent
8,057,988
Catalyst for microelectromechanical systems microreactors
A microreactor comprising a silicon wafer, a multiplicity of microchannels in the silicon wafer, and a catalyst coating the microchannels. In one embodiment the catalyst coating the microchannels comprises a nanostructured material. In another embodiment the catalyst coating the microchannels comprises an aerogel. In another embodiment the catalyst coating the microchannels comprises a solgel. In another embodiment the catalyst coating the microchannels comprises carbon nanotubes.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 11/15/2011
Issued
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
21209PrototypeAvailable04/22/201104/22/2011

Contact LLNL About This Technology

To: Annemarie Meike<meike1@llnl.gov>