Breakthrough in Micro Fuel Cell Research

Future micro fuel cells could use Bulk Metallic Glasses to power iPads.

Interview with André Taylor
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Interview with André Taylor

A group of Yale University engineers say they have made a major breakthrough in the mass production of micro fuel cells.

Micro fuel cells work much like their bigger counterparts that power buildings and buses. André Taylor is an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale, and lead investigator of the research.

A fuel cell takes a fuel source, it could be an alcohol, it could be a hydrogen gas, it could be methane and it converts that fuel using an electric chemical process into electricity.

But micro fuel cells, as the name suggests, are much smaller, about a half millimeter square in size.

Typically micro fuel cells are made with silicon and stainless steel, but these materials are brittle and expensive to produce on a mass scale.

Now a group of Yale engineers, say they have found a better and more affordable alternative. Bulk Metallic glasses, or BMGs are metal alloys that are pliable, strong as steel and an excellent conductor of electricity. They could eventually power up smart phones and tablets, and remote sensors.

"These could be for devices that you might need to power up once every once in a while," said Taylor. "These could be remote sensors that could be deployed out in a field so if you could have some sort of sensing equipment that needs to transmit data, I think these could fit in very well."

Taylor's research can be found in the journal Small.