Nature 435, 795-798 (9 June 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature03673; Received 24 November 2004; Accepted 23 March 2005

A thermally self-sustained micro solid-oxide fuel-cell stack with high power density

Zongping Shao1, Sossina M. Haile1, Jeongmin Ahn2, Paul D. Ronney2, Zhongliang Zhan3 & Scott A. Barnett3

  1. Materials Science, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA
  2. Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA
  3. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA

Correspondence to: Sossina M. Haile1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to S.M.H. (Email: smhaile@caltech.edu).

High energy efficiency and energy density, together with rapid refuelling capability, render fuel cells highly attractive for portable power generation1, 2. Accordingly, polymer-electrolyte direct-methanol fuel cells are of increasing interest as possible alternatives to Li ion batteries3. However, such fuel cells face several design challenges and cannot operate with hydrocarbon fuels of higher energy density. Solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) enable direct use of higher hydrocarbons4, 5, 6, but have not been seriously considered for portable applications because of thermal management difficulties at small scales, slow start-up and poor thermal cyclability. Here we demonstrate a thermally self-sustaining micro-SOFC stack with high power output and rapid start-up by using single chamber operation on propane fuel. The catalytic oxidation reactions supply sufficient thermal energy to maintain the fuel cells at 500–600 °C. A power output of approx350 mW (at 1.0 V) was obtained from a device with a total cathode area of only 1.42 cm2.


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