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Research Papers: Multiphase Flows

Planar Multiplexing of Microfluidic Fuel Cells

[+] Author and Article Information
Erik Kjeang

e-mail: ekjeang@sfu.ca
Mechatronic Systems Engineering,
School of Engineering Science,
Simon Fraser University,
250-13450 102 Avenue,
Surrey, BC, V3T 0A3, Canada

1Corresponding author.

Manuscript received May 15, 2012; final manuscript received August 31, 2012; published online March 19, 2013. Assoc. Editor: Kendra Sharp.

J. Fluids Eng 135(2), 021304 (Mar 19, 2013) (7 pages) Paper No: FE-12-1245; doi: 10.1115/1.4023447 History: Received May 15, 2012; Revised August 31, 2012

Microfluidic fuel cells eliminate the membrane by utilizing parallel colaminar flow of electrolyte between the anode and cathode electrodes. When operated on vanadium redox electrolyte, these cells also eliminate the need for catalyst. Hence, microfluidic fuel cells are promising contenders in terms of achieving useful performance levels for commercial applications while being cost-effective on a commercial scale. However, due to the inherent size of these devices the power output is relatively low and scale-up is a major challenge. In the present article, two planar cell multiplexing strategies are introduced, featuring a nonsymmetric unilateral design and a symmetric bilateral device architecture, both of which employ two cells with shared fluidic inlet ports. The fuel cell design is based on flow-through porous carbon electrodes using vanadium redox electrolytes as reactants. In both array architectures, the two cells are fluidically connected in parallel and electrically in series. The main challenge of achieving uniform flow distribution is assessed using laminar flow theory and computational fluid dynamics and validated experimentally. The normalized performance obtained with the two prototype array cells is found to be equivalent to previously reported data for single cells, in this case doubling the device level voltage and power output and reaching 820 and 1200 mW/cm2 peak power density for the nonsymmetric unilateral and symmetric bilateral array designs, respectively. It is, thus, demonstrated that both unilateral and bilateral planar multiplexing strategies are feasible for microfluidic fuel cell technologies and are shown to be particularly effective when the flow sharing between different cells is equal.

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Figures

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Fig. 1

Nonsymmetric unilateral multiplexing of two microfluidic fuel cells

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Fig. 2

Device layout comparison of the proposed nonsymmetric unilateral (a) and symmetric bilateral (b) multiplexing methods

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Fig. 3

Laser etching fabrication process

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Fig. 4

Soft lithography fabrication process

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Fig. 5

Equivalent electrical circuit for the flow distribution in the nonsymmetric unilateral microfluidic fuel cell array

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Fig. 6

Proposed channel designs of the nonsymmetric unilateral array: baseline (a) and enhanced (b) designs

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Fig. 7

Pressure distribution in the baseline unilateral fuel cell array at 10 μl/min flow rate (units: Pa)

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Fig. 8

Pressure distribution in the enhanced unilateral fuel cell array at 10 μl/min flow rate (units: Pa)

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Fig. 9

Image of a unilateral two-cell array powering an LED

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Fig. 10

Measured polarization curves at two flow rates (as indicated) for unilateral, two-cell microfluidic fuel cell array prototypes fabricated by laser etching and soft lithography in PMMA and PDMS, respectively

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Fig. 11

Measured polarization curves at two flow rates (as indicated) for unilateral and bilateral two-cell array prototypes compared to single cell results

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Fig. 12

Measured power density curves at two flow rates (as indicated) for unilateral and bilateral two-cell array prototypes compared to single cell results

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