Researchers at Clemson University have developed a revolutionary method of 3D printed fuel cell, a renewable energy device with potential as a cleaner alternative to burning fossil fuels to generate power.
Protonic ceramic fuel cells use renewable fuels like hydrogen, ammonia, hydrocarbons, and alcohols instead of fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. Since they are difficult to mass produce, getting them out of the lab and into usage has proved challenging. Clemson University’s Advanced Materials Research Laboratory team went to 3D printing, a technology that allows for the precise fabrication of three-dimensional models, to develop a solution.
The group finally made headway when they came up with tubular PCFCs, which have many benefits over the more common flat versions. The improved durability and sealing of tubular PCFCs makes them well-suited for use in practical situations. Hydrogen was employed as fuel in a significant experiment lasting 200 hours, during which time the fuel cell reliably generated electricity. This success alone demonstrates the potential for 3D printed fuel cell to outperform conventional manufacturing methods in terms of accuracy, consistency, and low production costs.
How is the 3D Printed Fuel Cell Made?
The group 3D printed tubular protonic ceramic fuel cells, which have various benefits over a planar design, including increased durability and simpler sealing. One fuel cell was tested for 200 hours using hydrogen fuel, and it continually generated electricity. According to the authors, 3D printed fuel cell are more precise, consistent, and cost-effective than their conventionally made counterparts. The results were published in ACS Energy Letters by the all-Clemson team. Ph.D. student Minda Zou was the primary author, while Professor Jianhua “Joshua” Tong and postdoctoral researcher Jiawei Zhang in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering were the corresponding authors.
“Our work suggests that 3DP could pave the way for the real-world applications of tubular PCFCs,” the scientists stated in the article, using an acronym for 3D-printing and protonic ceramic fuel cell to make 3D printed fuel cell. Tong emphasized that the group’s ability to 3D-print a fuel cell’s anode, cathode, and electrolyte was a key aspect of the study’s novelty.
The unique contribution of this study of 3D printed fuel cell is the team’s success in 3D printing all three of the fuel cell’s key layers simultaneously: anode, cathode, and electrolyte. Because of its ease of implementation and low cost, this achievement has tremendous market potential. While it takes around three hours to 3D print one fuel cell, the researchers are already planning more complex designs for the next step in their project. If their predictions come to fruition, 3D printed fuel cell might be on store shelves in as little as five years.
About Clemson University
Thomas Green Clemson, an engineer, singer, and artist from Philadelphia who married John C. Calhoun’s daughter, Anna Maria, and moved to her family’s estate in South Carolina, left a gift that led to the establishment of Clemson University in 1889. Clemson University was established through a bequest from Clemson, who had supported an agricultural college in the Upstate for many years.
After receiving Clemson’s donation in November 1889, Governor John Peter Richardson signed a bill for the college’s trustees to manage federal funds made available for agricultural education and research under the Morrill Act and the Hatch Act.
Clemson Agricultural College first opened its doors in July 1893 with 446 students. At the time, it was an all-male, all-white military institution. In 1955 Clemson stopped being a military school and became open to both sexes. Clemson University was the first historically white university in South Carolina to desegregate after Reconstruction when it welcomed Harvey Gantt in 1963. In 1964, the school expanded its focus from military training to include academic programs and research.
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