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Highlights in Chemical Technology

Chemical technology news from across RSC Publishing.



Exceptionally stable microfluidic power


16 February 2006

Chemists in America have developed a microfluidic hydrogen-air fuel cell that provides a stable power output for one hundred days and with a more simple design than conventional devices.

Microfluidic hydrogen-air fuel cell

The microfluidic fuel cell constructed by Ralph Nuzzo and Svetlana Mitrovski of the University of Illinois is different from conventional fuel cells as it does not require an external pump. Nor does it need a membrane to separate the electrode, as the polymer of which it is made acts as a membrane itself.

According to the pair, micro-fuel cells show the potential to replace rechargeable lithium batteries and could provide longer operation times and greater energy densities. The high cost of the catalysts required by conventional fuel cells and inadequate performance of the membrane has hindered advances in this field up to now.

"Micro-fuel cells show the potential to replace rechargeable lithium batteries."

Nuzzo and Mitrovski said that future advances will arise from improvements in hydrogen solubility and permeation rates. They believe that they can exploit this passive design for other applications and that within a year; this hydrogen fuel cell could be optimised to deliver ten times more power.

Rebecca I Gillan

References

S M Mitrovski and R G Nuzzo, Lab Chip, 2006 (DOI: 10.1039/b513829a)