Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) are one of the most efficient and fuel flexible power generators. However, a great limitation on their applicability arises from temperature restrictions. Operation approaching room temperature (RT) is hindered by the limited performance of state-of-the-art electrolytes and cathodes. Meanwhile, the typical high operating temperatures (HT = 600-800ºC) avoid their implementation in portable devices where quick start ups with low energy consumption are required.
The ULTRASOFC project aims to break these historical limitations by taking advantage of the tremendous opportunities arising from novel fields in the domain of the nanoscale (nanoionics or nano photochemistry) and recent advances in the marriage between micro and nanotechnologies. From the required interdisciplinary approach, the ULTRASOFC project addresses, first, materials challenges to reduce the operation to RT, and second technological gaps to develop ultra-low-thermal mass structures able to reach high T with extremely low consumption and immediate start up.
A unique μSOFC technology fully integrated in ultrathin silicon is being developed to allow operation with hydrogen at room temperature and based on hydrocarbons at high temperature. Stacking these μSOFCs will bring a new family of ultrathin power sources able to provide 100 mW at RT and 5W at HT in a size of a one-cent coin. A stand-alone device fuelled with methane at HT will be fabricated in the size of a dice.
Apart from breaking the state-of-the-art of power portable generation, the ULTRASOFC project aims to fill the gap of knowledge existing for the migration of HT electrochemical devices to RT, as well as bring MEMS to HT. Therefore, ULTRASOFC is opening up new horizons and opportunities for research in adjacent fields like electrochemical transducers or chemical sensors. Furthermore, the new technological perspectives developed within the project for the integration of unconventional materials will allow exploring unknown devices and practical applications in the future.
Our membranes heat up and cool down immediately thanks to their low mass keeping their stability, as it can be seen in this video.