A Novel Membraneless Fuel Cell for Generating AC or Pulsed DC Power

Principal Investigator: Hugh Hillhouse

Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are the preferred type of hydrogen fuel cell for portable power. PEMFCs offer low operating temperatures and quick response times, but are hindered by issues including the use of costly platinum as catalyst for the fuel cell reaction; poisoning of this catalyst by CO and sulfur present in fuels; a sensitive proton transport membrane (Nafion) which requires active water management to maintain optimum proton conductivity; and hazard issues related to the high pressure storage of hydrogen. Costs and instabilities associated with these issues present a barrier to widespread adoption of PEMFCs, and here remains a need for a robust, inexpensive technology for low temperature fuel cells.

The inventors have developed a fuel cell technology that pairs a single electrode with a variable bias circuit, removing the need for a delicate proton transport membrane. Coordination of bias switching with fuel and oxidant introduction to the reaction chamber allows oxidation and reduction steps to be performed on the same electrode surface. Advantages include fuel flexibility (H2, CH4, natural gas); poisoning resistance; variable temperature operation; and the ability to use more inexpensive catalysts such as nickel. The technology can be incorporated in multiple fuel cell designs for alternating the gas environment, including a pulsed gas system, a rotating dual chamber system, a Wankel engine design, and others.

Advantages 

• Low temperature, cost efficient fuel cell design for use with multiple types of fuels (H2, CH4, natural gas) 

• Removes need for costly catalysts and proton transport membranes 

• Poisoning resistant design 

• Applications include mobile power solutions and stationary installations


For more info, contact: Forest Bohrer

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