Full ceramic micro solid oxide fuel cells: towards more reliable MEMS power generators operating at high temperatures
Batteries, with a limited capacity, have dominated the power supply of portable devices for decades. Recently, the emergence of new types of highly efficient miniaturized power generators like micro fuel cells has opened up alternatives for continuous operation on the basis of unlimited fuel feeding. This work addresses for the first time the development of a full ceramic micro solid oxide fuel cell fabricated in silicon technology. This full-ceramic device represents a new generation of miniaturized power generators able to operate at high temperatures, and therefore able to work with a hydrocarbon fuel supply. Dense yttria-stabilized zirconia free-standing large-area membranes on micromachined silicon were used as the electrolyte. Thin-film porous electrodes of La0.6Sr0.4CoO3−δ and gadolinia-doped ceria were employed as cathode and anode materials, respectively. The electrochemical performance of all the components was evaluated by partial characterization using symmetrical cells, yielding excellent performance for the electrolyte (area specific resistance of 0.15 Ω cm2 at temperatures as low as 450 °C) and the electrodes (area specific resistance of the cathode and anode below 0.3 Ω cm2 at 700 °C). A micro solid oxide fuel cell with an active area of 2 mm2 and less than 1 micrometer in thickness was characterized under fuel cell conditions, using hydrogen as a fuel and air as an oxidant. A maximum power density of 100 mW cm−2 and 2 mW per single membrane was generated at 750 °C, having an open circuit voltage of 1.05 V. Impedance spectroscopy of the all-ceramic membrane showed a total area-specific resistance of ∼3.5 Ω cm2.