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As a byproduct, gas is constantly generated from the electrochemical reactions of direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs). In the anodic channel of a DMFC, the gas forms bubbles, which leads to bubble clogging and pressure buildup if the device is miniaturized. Bubble clogging increases the flow resistance in microchannels, calling for excessive power consumption for fuel delivery. Pressure buildup aggravates the undesired crossover of methanol. In order to solve those problems, this paper introduces a gas-venting microchannel that directly removes gas bubbles from the two-phase flows of gas and methanol solution without leakage. By employing a hydrophobic nanoporous membrane, successful venting is achieved for both water and methanol fuel with a concentration of as high as 10 M. The fuel is contained without leakage under overpressures of as high as 200 kPa for both water and 10-M methanol, fulfilling the requirement of the current- as well as next-generation microdirect methanol fuel cells. A 1-D venting rate model is developed and experimentally verified for elongated bubbles. The reported bubble removal approach is also useful for other microfluidic devices, in which the accidental introduction of gas bubbles is prevalent.
Date of Publication: Dec. 2007