A continuously growing need for high energy density miniaturized power sources for portable electronic applications has spurred the development of a variety of microscale fuel cells. For portable applications, membrane-based fuel cells using small organic fuels (i.e., methanol, formic acid) are among the most promising configurations as they benefit from the high energy density and easy storage of the liquid fuels. Unfortunately, the performance of these fuel cells is often hindered by membrane-related issues such as water management (i.e., electrode dry-out / flooding) and fuel crossover. Furthermore, high costs of, for example, catalysts and membranes as well as durability concerns still hinder commercialization efforts. To address these challenges we have developed membraneless laminar flow-based fuel cells (LFFCs), which exploit microscale transport phenomena (laminar flow) to compartmentalize streams within a single microchannel. The properties of various fuel and media flexible LFFCs will be presented and novel strategies for improving fuel utilization and power density will be discussed. Furthermore, the performance of a scaled-out 14-channel LFFC prototype is presented. We have also developed a microfluidic fuel cell as a powerful analytical platform to investigate and optimize the complex processes that govern the performance of catalysts and electrodes in an operating fuel cell. This platform bridges the gap between a conventional 3-electrode electrochemical cell and a fuel cell, as it allows for standard electrochemical analysis (e.g., CV, CA, EIS) as well as fuel cell analysis (e.g., IV curves).

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