Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Power Plant On A Chip? It's No Small Matter To Lehigh Scientists

Date:
August 24, 2001
Source:
Lehigh University
Summary:
A silicon chip that produces hydrogen to operate a laptop computer? Scientists at Lehigh University are developing a tiny generating plant, housed on a silicon chip, that they believe can produce enough hydrogen to run power-consuming portable devices.

A silicon chip that produces hydrogen to operate a laptop computer? Scientists at Lehigh University are developing a tiny generating plant, housed on a silicon chip, that they believe can produce enough hydrogen to run power-consuming portable devices.

The amount of hydrogen produced was small, but it was enough to demonstrate that the Lehigh project is feasible. Given time the Lehigh group believes they will develop a working generating plant, housed on a silicon chip, that produces sufficient quantities of hydrogen to run different types of power consuming portable devices.

"About 10 years ago people starting thinking: 'can we take the same fabrication methods for silicon chips and instead of using them for electronics, use them for something else?'" says Mayuresh Kothare, assistant professor of chemical engineering.

Instead of a processing device for electrons, chips would become miniature chemical reactors or power plants. Kothare says that in one experiment a silicon chip was turned into a tiny steam engine. The channels normally used to transmit electrical current were used to carry steam. They could just as easily have been used to carry various reagents to fuel miniature reactors or generating plants housed in the chip's processing areas. In an experiment at the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico scientists created a miniature geared engine on a chip.

"At Lehigh our chip-based micro-chemical plant will take a reagent, such as methanol, or a hydrocarbon, like diesel or gasoline, and carry it to a tiny reactor to produce hydrogen," Kothare says. "We have already produced hydrogen and have been able to get the reagents into the reactor to carry out the necessary reaction."

The hydrogen will be collected in a miniature fuel cell that can power an electronic device. A fuel cell creates power through the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen.

The chip is the same size as an ordinary electronic chip, approximately three centimeters by three centimeters. The micro-plant would be fueled by small cartridges of methanol, or other hydrocarbons, that are fed to the "reformer" by micro-capillaries or miniature fuel lines. The reformer would be heated by electricity and the reaction would produce hydrogen which would be transmitted to the fuel cell via another network of micro-capillaries.

While one chip could not produce enough power to operate a laptop, Kothare says that by wrapping scores or hundreds of the tiny micro-plants together -- called "numbering up"-- enough power could be produced to operate all kinds of electronic devices. A recent experiment in Germany demonstrated that a hydrogen micro-fuel cell powered a laptop computer for up to ten hours whereas the operating time of an ordinary rechargeable laptop battery is generally about two hours.

Kothare also notes that by using a chip power plant one would not need to stop to recharge a battery. Just insert a new fuel source of methanol, diesel or gasoline to the chip plant and the power continues.

Currently, one of the hurdles in creating a working plant is getting the reagents into the micro-capillaries. "Think of piping in your own house," Kothare says. "You can buy standard fittings but there are no standard fittings for the chip plant and there are no standardized pipes. To get the reagents in is a whole world of its own. You don't know how much will leak or vaporize or if it is sealed tightly."

While Kothare and his colleagues are working on a chip-based power plant, he notes that there could be unlimited uses for devices developed from microchips. One use could be the implantation of a processing chip inside the body to conduct all sorts of medical functions. A tiny chip-analyzer could take in minuscule amounts of blood, and analyze it for such things as sugar or insulin levels. Blood tests could be done instantly without need of sending the results to a lab.

Funding for Kothare's projects comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico. Support also comes from the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse, a consortium of electronics companies in Pittsburgh.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Lehigh University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Lehigh University. "Power Plant On A Chip? It's No Small Matter To Lehigh Scientists." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 August 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010824081233.htm>.
Lehigh University. (2001, August 24). Power Plant On A Chip? It's No Small Matter To Lehigh Scientists. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010824081233.htm
Lehigh University. "Power Plant On A Chip? It's No Small Matter To Lehigh Scientists." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010824081233.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) Japan's bullet train turns 50 Wednesday. Here's a look at how it's changed over half a century — and the changes it's inspired globally. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) Police body cameras are gradually being rolled out across the US, with interest surging after the fatal police shooting in August of an unarmed black teenager. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) A ceremony marking 50 years since Japan launched its Shinkansen bullet train was held on Wednesday in Tokyo. The latest model can travel from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 319 miles, in two hours and 25 minutes. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robotic Hair Restoration

Robotic Hair Restoration

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A new robotic procedure is changing the way we transplant hair. The ARTAS robot leaves no linear scarring and provides more natural results. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins