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Alberta Research Council reaches major milestone in the development of micro fuel cell technology


A first in Canada, the Alberta Research Council (ARC) reached a milestone in the technical development of its own version of solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology. ARC scientists are developing a proprietary micro solid oxide fuel cell (µ-SOFC) source of energy for small-scale portable applications such as laptops or personal digital assistants (PDAs).

"This is an important milestone as we pursue our strategic initiative in fuel cell technologies," says John Zhou, manager, Advanced Materials business unit. "Alternative energy technologies are becoming increasingly important in today’s world and we need to research options that have practical applications."

Research scientists in ARC’s Advanced Materials business unit have constructed a working demonstration unit able to power a small electric fan. The single cell consists of a small hollow ceramic tube that is two millimetres in diameter and two centimetres in active length. ARC’s fuel cell demo unit uses hydrogen gas as a fuel, but could be adapted to run on a variety of fuels including natural gas, butane or propane. This "flexible fuel" application of fuel cell technology is considered to be more environmentally friendly due to lower emissions of CO2, a known contributor to greenhouse gases.

"We’re still in the early stages of research and development, but our focus is on developing an energy source that is easy to start up and will provide a high degree of power in a relatively small space, such as a cell phone, laptop or PDA," says Partho Sarkar, senior research scientist, ARC. "Solid oxide fuel cells have one of the highest conversion efficiencies of all fuel cells (35-60 per cent), so they make excellent candidates for this type of applied research."

The project began more than 18 months ago and involves five scientific research employees and one commercial analyst. ARC has invested more than $700,000 in the project to date. Five patent applications have been filed by ARC, which has funded the project 100 per cent.

Alberta Research Council Inc. (ARC) develops and commercializes technologies to give clients a competitive advantage. A Canadian leader in innovation, ARC provides solutions globally to the energy, life sciences, agriculture, environment, forestry and manufacturing sectors. ARC’s Advanced Material business unit develops and commercializes new materials, products, and processing technologies in ceramics, metals, polymers and composites.

For technical information, contact:

Partho Sarkar
Research Scientist
Alberta Research Council Inc.
Tel: (780) 450-5272

For commercial information, contact:

Dean Richardson, P.Eng., CPIM
Venture Manager
Alberta Research Council Inc.
Tel: (780) 450-5334

For corporate information or to arrange for video or photos of the demo unit, contact:

Bernie Poitras
Corporate Relations
Alberta Research Council Inc.
Tel: (780) 450-5145

Bernie Poitras | EurekAlert!
Further information:

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