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Designing Micro Fuel Cells for Portable Products

[+] Author Affiliations
Bas Flipsen

Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands

Paper No. FuelCell2009-85110, pp. 73-83; 11 pages
  • ASME 2009 7th International Conference on Fuel Cell Science, Engineering and Technology
  • ASME 2009 7th International Conference on Fuel Cell Science, Engineering and Technology
  • Newport Beach, California, USA, June 8–10, 2009
  • Conference Sponsors: Advanced Energy Systems Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4881-4 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3847-1
  • Copyright © 2009 by ASME


The main driving force in developments of consumer electronics, such as cell phones and laptop computers, is longer run times and more functionality. In this quest for higher energy densities battery characteristics improve at a constant pace. Fuel cells seem to be the next big technology breakthrough improving energy density with a factor 3 to 10 compared to current lithium ion batteries. In particular the Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC) is an interesting opportunity because of the high energy capacity of methanol and the handling of the fuel making ‘charging’ easy, safe and fast. To get information on the different aspects that determine the boundaries of the DMFC power source, a power source for a MP3 player, the Samsung YP-Z5F, is designed. This design is based on a DMFC plus battery (DMFC hybrid) and utilizes standard available components [1]. Design of a DMFC hybrid power source in a conventional way (standard practice engineering) will not result in a smaller power source for this particular application. The design has a power and energy density lower than the currently available lithium polymer battery, mainly because of the low fuel efficiency of the cell at low temperatures, the use of commercially available but still too bulky components, and a large amount of dead space (≈34%). There are three ways to increase power and energy density of the system. First by increasing the fuel-efficiency of the cells membrane. Second by scaling down the system components to the right proportions and third by improving the systems architecture diminishing empty space. This paper presents the design of a DMFC hybrid with scaled-down components. A literature study is done on the efficiency improvements of DMFC cells. The results are presented in a CAD model and evaluated, comparing the ‘optimized design’ with ‘standard practice’ design and the current lithium-polymer battery. The energy density of the redesigned fuel-cell system is still low compared to the used lithium-polymer battery, but an improvement to the preliminary design.

Copyright © 2009 by ASME



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