Computational modeling of a microfluidic fuel cell with flow-through porous electrodes
Summer internship + Undergraduate thesis at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada (Under a MITACS Globalink scholarship)
Advisor: Dr Erik Kjeang
Microfluidic fuel cells are devices where all the major components of a conventional fuel cell are confined to a single micro-channel. This relatively new invention(2002) has been shown to display higher power densities than current Lithium ion batteries. Thus these hold promise as potential replacement power sources for portable electronics and wire-less devices. My work at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver developed the first numerical model for a microfluidic fuel cell with flow-through electrodes, specifically the all vanadium microfluidic fuel. The model captures the multiphysical nature of the problem by solving from first principles the flow distribution, mass transport and electrochemical characteristics of the fuel cell. I used the COMSOL multiphysics tool to setup and solve the model. The model was used to identify the optimal operating point of the fuel cell with respect to efficiency and power output. It also helped in elucidating the phenomena of electrode polarization at the mass transport limit. Along with the modelling work I also learnt microfabrication techniques such as soft-lithography to fabricate microchannels. These prototypes were tested using a standard electrochemical test bed and these results used to validate the numerical model. The validated model results and experiments were then used to guide the design of new 3D cell architectures.