Scientists have developed a miniaturised fuel cell that can power drones for more than one hour and may lead to smartphone batteries that require charge only once a week.
The solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC), developed by researchers at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in South Korea, may replace lithium-ion batteries in smartphones, laptops, drones, and other small electronic devices.
Drones are used for various applications such as aero picturing, disaster recovery, and delivering. Despite attracting attention as a new growth area, the biggest problem of drones is its small battery capacity and limited flight time of less than an hour.
With the new fuel cell, developed by Professor Gyeong Man Choi and PhD student Kun Joong Kim , drones can fly more than one hour. The achievement has been highly evaluated because it can be utilised, not only for a small fuel cell, but also for a large-capacity fuel cell that can be used for a vehicle.
The SOFC, referred to as a third-generation fuel cell, has been intensively studied since it has a simple structure and no problems with corrosion or loss of the electrolyte. This fuel cell converts hydrogen into electricity by oxygen-ion migration to fuel electrode through an oxide electrolyte.
Typically, silicon has been used after lithography and etching as a supporting component of small oxide fuel cells. This design, however, has shown rapid degradation or poor durability due to thermal-expansion mismatch with the electrolyte, and thus, it cannot be used in actual devices that require fast On/Off.
The research team developed, for the first time in the world, a new technology that combines porous stainless steel, which is thermally and mechanically strong and highly stable to oxidation/reduction reactions, with thin-film electrolyte and electrodes of minimal heat capacity.
Performance and durability were increased simultaneously. In addition, the fuel cells are made by a combination of tape casting-lamination-cofiring (TLC) techniques that are commercially viable for large scale SOFC.
The research team expects this fuel cell may be suitable for portable electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and drones that require high power-density and quick on/off. They also expect to develop large and inexpensive fuel cells for a power source of next-generation automotive. The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.