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Title: Recovery Act: Advanced Direct Methanol Fuel Cell for Mobile Computing

ABSTRACT Project Title: Recovery Act: Advanced Direct Methanol Fuel Cell for Mobile Computing PROJECT OBJECTIVE The objective of the project was to advance portable fuel cell system technology towards the commercial targets of power density, energy density and lifetime. These targets were laid out in the DOE’s R&D roadmap to develop an advanced direct methanol fuel cell power supply that meets commercial entry requirements. Such a power supply will enable mobile computers to operate non-stop, unplugged from the wall power outlet, by using the high energy density of methanol fuel contained in a replaceable fuel cartridge. Specifically this project focused on balance-of-plant component integration and miniaturization, as well as extensive component, subassembly and integrated system durability and validation testing. This design has resulted in a pre-production power supply design and a prototype that meet the rigorous demands of consumer electronic applications. PROJECT TASKS The proposed work plan was designed to meet the project objectives, which corresponded directly with the objectives outlined in the Funding Opportunity Announcement: To engineer the fuel cell balance-of-plant and packaging to meet the needs of consumer electronic systems, specifically at power levels required for mobile computing. UNF used existing balance-of-plant component technologies developed under its currentmore » US Army CERDEC project, as well as a previous DOE project completed by PolyFuel, to further refine them to both miniaturize and integrate their functionality to increase the system power density and energy density. Benefits of UNF’s novel passive water recycling MEA (membrane electrode assembly) and the simplified system architecture it enabled formed the foundation of the design approach. The package design was hardened to address orientation independence, shock, vibration, and environmental requirements. Fuel cartridge and fuel subsystems were improved to ensure effective fuel containment. PROJECT OVERVIEW The University of North Florida (UNF), with project partner the University of Florida, recently completed the Department of Energy (DOE) project entitled “Advanced Direct Methanol Fuel Cell for Mobile Computing”. The primary objective of the project was to advance portable fuel cell system technology towards the commercial targets as laid out in the DOE R&D roadmap by developing a 20-watt, direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC), portable power supply based on the UNF innovative “passive water recovery” MEA. Extensive component, sub-system, and system development and testing was undertaken to meet the rigorous demands of the consumer electronic application. Numerous brassboard (nonpackaged) systems were developed to optimize the integration process and facilitating control algorithm development. The culmination of the development effort was a fully-integrated, DMFC, power supply (referred to as DP4). The project goals were 40 W/kg for specific power, 55 W/l for power density, and 575 Whr/l for energy density. It should be noted that the specific power and power density were for the power section only, and did not include the hybrid battery. The energy density is based on three, 200 ml, fuel cartridges, and also did not include the hybrid battery. The results show that the DP4 system configured without the methanol concentration sensor exceeded all performance goals, achieving 41.5 W/kg for specific power, 55.3 W/l for power density, and 623 Whr/l for energy density. During the project, the DOE revised its technical targets, and the definition of many of these targets, for the portable power application. With this revision, specific power, power density, specific energy (Whr/kg), and energy density are based on the total system, including fuel tank, fuel, and hybridization battery. Fuel capacity is not defined, but the same value is required for all calculations. Test data showed that the DP4 exceeded all 2011 Technical Status values; for example, the DP4 energy density was 373 Whr/l versus the DOE 2011 status of 200 Whr/l. For the DOE 2013 Technical Goals, the operation time was increased from 10 hours to 14.3 hours. Under these conditions, the DP4 closely approached or surpassed the technical targets; for example, the DP4 achieved 468 Whr/l versus the goal of 500 Whr/l. Thus, UNF has successfully met the project goals. A fully-operational, 20-watt DMFC power supply was developed based on the UNF passive water recovery MEA. The power supply meets the project performance goals and advances portable power technology towards the commercialization targets set by the DOE.« less
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  1. University of North Florida
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
University of North Florida
Sponsoring Org:
Contributing Orgs:
University of Florida
Country of Publication:
United States
08 HYDROGEN Fuel cell, Hydrogen