Compact Direct Methanol Fuel Cell: Design Approach Using Commercial Micropumps

[+] Author and Article Information
Robert C. McDonald

Giner, Inc., 89 Rumford Avenue, Newton, MA 02466-1311, USA

Monjid Hamdan

Giner, Inc., 89 Rumford Avenue, Newton, MA 02466-1311, USA

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4040077 History: Received February 02, 2018; Revised April 19, 2018


Direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC) are typically supplied under pressure or capillary action with a solution of methanol in water optimized for the best specific power and power density at an operating temperature of about 60 °C. Methanol and water consumption at the anode together with water and methanol losses through membrane due to crossover create an imbalance over time so the fuel concentration at the anode drifts from the optimal ratio. In the present study, we demonstrate a DMFC with a means for continuous adjustment of water and methanol content in the anode fuel mixture of an air-breathing DMFC to maintain the optimal concentration for maximum and continuous power. Two types of piezoelectric micropumps were programmed to deliver the two liquids at the designated rate to maintain optimal concentration at the anode during discharge. The micropumps operate over a wide range of temperature, can be easily reprogrammed and can operate in any orientation. A study of performance at different current densities showed that at 100 mA/cm2, the self-contained, free convection, air-breathing cell delivers 31.6 mW/cm2 of electrode surface with thermal equilibrium reached at 52 °C. The micropumps and controllers consume only 2.6% of this power during 43 hours of continuous unattended operation. Methanol utilization was 1.83 Wh-cm-3.

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