With This Fuel Cell, Drones Can Now Fly Longer

Researchers have developed a solid oxide fuel cell that has greater capacity than its lithium ion predecessors, allowing drones to have longer flight times.

AsianScientist (Mar. 21, 2016) – Researchers have developed a miniaturized fuel cell that gives drones a longer flight time, at over an hour. Their results were published in Scientific Reports.

Drones are used for various applications such as aero picturing, disaster recovery and deliveries. Despite attracting attention as a new growth area, most drones can only fly for less than an hour due to limited battery capacity.

Professor Choi Gyeong Man from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at POSTECH and his research team have developed a miniaturized solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) to replace lithium ion batteries in drones, smartphones, laptops and other small electronic devices. This fuel cell could also be adapted for use in smartphones that only need charging once a week.

The SOFC, a third-generation fuel cell, has been intensively studied since it has a simple structure and does not corrode or lose electrolytes. It converts hydrogen into electricity by oxygen-ion migration to fuel electrodes through oxide electrolytes.

Typically, silicon is used as a supporting component of small oxide fuel cells. However, it is prone to rapid degradation or poor durability. Thus, the research team developed a new technology that combines porous stainless steel, which is thermally and mechanically strong and highly stable, with thin-film electrolytes and electrodes of minimal heat capacity.

Performance and durability were increased simultaneously—the fuel cells exhibited a high power density of ~560 mW cm2 at 550°C. In addition, the fuel cells are made by commercially viable techniques.

The research team expects this fuel cell may be suitable for portable electronic devices that require high power-density and quick on/off. They also expect to develop large and inexpensive fuel cells as a power source for next-generation automotives.

The article can be found at: Kim et al. (2016) Micro Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Fabricated on Porous Stainless Steel: A New Strategy for Enhanced Thermal Cycling Ability.


Source: POSTECH; Photo: Shutterstock.
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