Micro Fuel Cell: The Challenges and Opportunities of a Platform For and Beyond PowerMEMS
Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics
Abstract: The development of portable electronic devices and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have brought up great challenges to their power sources, also known as powerMEMS devices. Micro fuel cells (μFCs) are considered to be promising candidates mainly due to their high energy density. However, the development and commercialization of μFCs have fallen behind the expectation. Many major issues of μFC can be attributed to its complex system architecture, which is necessary to achieve optimum performance yet difficult to be miniaturized without significant packaging penalty and parasitic power loss. In our research group, we are trying to turn the curses/challenges of the complex μFC systems into blessings/opportunities by viewing μFC as a platform for the development of various promising technologies for powerMEMS. We started with an integrated microfluidic fuel delivery approach that automatically regulates liquid and gas reactants with no power consumption. An embedded self-pumping mechanism is demonstrated to deliver the liquid fuel of micro direct methanol fuel cells (μDMFCs) by employing the CO2 gas bubbles generated by the fuel cell reactions. Self-circulating/self-regulating gas generators are also developed to supply hydrogen and oxygen to a fully-enclosed micro polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell, which has the potential to work in anaerobic environments. A room-temperature electrophoretic deposition (EPD) process is employed to form vertically-align carbon nanotube forests as the support for metal-nanoparticle catalysts, which can be generated by a novel short-distance sputter process. Self-adaptive thermal switch arrays are being developed to enable quick stabilization of the μFC operation temperature, especially for micro solid oxide fuel cells.
The presentation will also give brief introductions on other on-going projects in the speaker's group, most of which have been inspired by μFC research, including superhydrophilic surfaces for anti-fouling/anti-fogging microfluidic devices, microfluidic fabrication of self-healing materials, and demulsification of oil-water emulsion by nanostructured surfaces.
Biography: Dennis Desheng Meng is currently an Assistant Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics of Michigan Tech. Dr. Meng obtained his Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2005 along with the Outstanding Ph.D. Award. After he joined Michigan Tech in August 2007, Dr. Meng started the Multi-Scale Energy Systems (MuSES) Laboratory to work on micro- and nanotechnology for energy applications. He is currently leading a group of six students and one postdoctoral associate to work on various research projects, including micro fuel cells, micro batteries, micro supercapacitors, production of metal nanoparticles by short-distance sputtering, microfluidic fabrication of self-healing materials, thermal management for powerMEMS, and biomedical application of superhydrophilic surfaces.