Recently, a research group of Freiburg University at Germany has been cooperated with one of the well known semiconductor vendors, Micronas AG to integrate a fuel cell array on a chip.
According to Hoffman, the leader of the research group, the device is having the ability to power autonomous Microsystems, which is known as ‘Smart dust’.
Technically, the chip contains 42 microscale fuel cells on a CMOS device, including four cells to power the control circuitry necessary to keep the output voltage of 3.3V constant. Furthermore, the semiconductor structure has been manufactured using a standard CMOS process, the fuel cell elements, which is a palladium layer of H2 storage, cathode and membrane.
Now, the biggest challenge for the research group is to interconnect the fuel cells in a way that allows the control circuitry. They need to figure out the effective way to keep the output stable during the element’s lifetime. Hoffman believed that with several elements in parallel and in series, it’s possible and easier to keep voltage and current maintain in a constant level.
Hoffman described that a fuel cell could be used as a power buffer for periods, especially when energy harvesting methods don’t generate enough power. [eetimes.com]