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Powerful Work: Microfluidic Paper Fuel Cells

Greg Thiessen
1 May 2014

Senior Research Fellow, Juan Pablo Esquivel, and his colleagues in Barcelona, Spain were recently published in Energy & Environmental Science for their work on microfluidic paper fuel cells [1]. This work details the development of a fuel cell consisting of methanol and KOH. By harnessing the capillary flow of porous membranes, the need for external pumps to supply reactants is eliminated. The electrolyte (KOH) and fuel (methanol) are stored within a lateral flow device such that the addition of water generates power. The ability to use the sample, such as blood, to generate power is incredibly beneficial and exciting. I’m not the only one to get excited about it either. The work was highlighted in the March edition of Science Magazine in the Editor’s Choice section [2], as well as in Chemistry World. This design can be used to power the detection of analyte, replacing the need for button-cell batteries. This truly is powerful work.

Schematic of a paper-based microfluidic fuel cell design. Figure courtesy of J.P. Esquivel.
  1. Esquivel, J.P., et al., Microfluidic fuel cells on paper: meeting the power needs of next generation lateral flow devices. Energy & Environmental Science, 2014.
  2. Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink, J., Paper Power. Science, 2014. 343(6176): p. 1179.

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