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Materials and Methods for Microfluidic Fuel Cells Open Access


Other title
Proton Exchange Membranes
Laminar Flow Lithography
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Nearingburg, Ben
Supervisor and department
Elias, Anastasia (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Elias, Anastasia (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Sinton, David (Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto)
Nazemifard, Neda (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Chung, Hyun-Joong (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
McCaffrey, William (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Cadien, Ken (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
Materials Engineering
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Microfluidic fuel cell (MFC) devices are a promising route towards on-chip power generation for microfluidic and lab-on-a-chip systems. Current MFCs leverage fabrication techniques and materials that have been inherited from micromachining technology and macro-scale fuel cell devices. Both, these methods and materials can be costly and difficult to integrate into larger microfluidic networks or lab-on-a-chip devices. In order to fully explore the utility of MFCs, device should be composed of common microfluidic materials (i.e. formed from the same materials as the rest of the device) and amendable to fabrication alongside other components of microfluidic devices (i.e. not require specialized equipment/techniques for patterning). This thesis set out to improve the applicability of MFC devices by enhancing fabrication methods and describing new functional materials to better align MFCs with microfluidic device architectures. To achieve this goal, I focused my efforts on improving individual sub-components of the MFC device architecture to yield more effective devices. Throughout this thesis, emphasis was placed upon leveraging techniques amenable to low-cost bench-top processing (i.e. those that do not require expensive capital equipment) to broaden the applicability of MFC devices. My work was applied to three components of planar MFC devices (where a device consists of a single sided microchannel and a flat capping layer). First, proton exchange membranes capable of in situ patterning were developed and characterized. Second, oxygen transport through air breathing polymer layers was assessed through finite element modelling to better understand factors governing air breathing MFC devices. Finally, a new technique, multi-layer in situ laminar flow lithography, was introduced and characterized. This technique was shown to allow for patterning of multi-layer metal films to yield independent catalytic electrodes. Functional alkaline direct methanol fuel cell devices were then fabricated and characterized using the technique. The utility and applicability of each of these techniques to both MFCs and the wider field of microfluidics was assessed and possible applications discussed.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
“Photopolymerizable sulfonated poly(ethylene glycol) proton exchange memrbanes for microfluidic and fuel cell applications” Nearingburg B, Elias A L Journal of Membrane Science 389 (2012) 148-154“Finite element analysis of oxygen transport in microfluidic cell culture devices with varying channel architectures, perfusion rates, and materials” Zahorodny-Burke M, Nearingburg B, Elias A L Chemical Engineering Science 66 (2011) 6244-6253“Patterning multilayer microfluidic electrochemical devices by maskless laminar flow lithography” Nearingburg B, Elias A L RSC Advances Accepted For Publication June 19, 2014

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