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Canada Pursues Micro Fuel Cells

The microstructure of a yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) tube, approximately 10 mm in diameter. ARC Photo
Edmonton - Nov 15, 2002
A first in Canada, the Alberta Research Council (ARC) reached a milestone in the technical development of its own version of solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology. ARC scientists are developing a proprietary micro solid oxide fuel cell (-SOFC) source of energy for small-scale portable applications such as laptops or personal digital assistants (PDAs).

"This is an important milestone as we pursue our strategic initiative in fuel cell technologies," says John Zhou, manager, Advanced Materials business unit. "Alternative energy technologies are becoming increasingly important in today's world and we need to research options that have practical applications."

Research scientists in ARC's Advanced Materials business unit have constructed a working demonstration unit able to power a small electric fan. The single cell consists of a small hollow ceramic tube that is two millimetres in diameter and two centimetres in active length.

ARC's fuel cell demo unit uses hydrogen gas as a fuel, but could be adapted to run on a variety of fuels including natural gas, butane or propane. This "flexible fuel" application of fuel cell technology is considered to be more environmentally friendly due to lower emissions of CO2, a known contributor to greenhouse gases.

"We're still in the early stages of research and development, but our focus is on developing an energy source that is easy to start up and will provide a high degree of power in a relatively small space, such as a cell phone, laptop or PDA," says Partho Sarkar, senior research scientist, ARC.

"Solid oxide fuel cells have one of the highest conversion efficiencies of all fuel cells (35-60 per cent), so they make excellent candidates for this type of applied research."

The project began more than 18 months ago and involves five scientific research employees and one commercial analyst. ARC has invested more than $700,000 in the project to date. Five patent applications have been filed by ARC, which has funded the project 100 per cent.

Related Links
Micro Solid Oxide Fuel Cell at ARC
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NASA Develops New Portable Fuel Cell Technology
Pasadena (JPL) Apr 22, 2002
NASA researchers have reached an important milestone in developing a portable energy source that may someday give that hot pink, shades-wearing, drum-beating bunny a run for its money.


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