Materials and Methods for Microfluidic Fuel Cells

  • Author / Creator
    Nearingburg, Ben
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
  • Specialization
    • Materials Engineering
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Elias, Anastasia (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Chung, Hyun-Joong (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
    • Cadien, Ken (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
    • Sinton, David (Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto)
    • Elias, Anastasia (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
    • McCaffrey, William (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
    • Nazemifard, Neda (Chemical and Materials Engineering)