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From Lab to Market – Microfluidic Fuel Cell Stack: An Undergraduate Capstone Project

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

ECCD Innovations in Energy Engineering & Technology

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.803.1 - 26.803.16



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Paper Authors


Irina Nicoleta Ciobanescu Husanu Drexel University (Tech.)

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Irina Ciobanescu Husanu, Ph. D. is Assistant Clinical Professor with Drexel University, Engineering Technology program. Her area of expertise is in thermo-fluid sciences with applications in micro-combustion, fuel cells, green fuels and plasma assisted combustion. She has prior industrial experience in aerospace engineering that encompasses both theoretical analysis and experimental investigations such as designing and testing of propulsion systems including design and development of pilot testing facility, mechanical instrumentation, and industrial applications of aircraft engines. Also, in the past 10 years she gained experience in teaching ME and ET courses in both quality control and quality assurance areas as well as in thermal-fluid, energy conversion and mechanical areas from various levels of instruction and addressed to a broad spectrum of students, from freshmen to seniors, from high school graduates to adult learners. She also has extended experience in curriculum development. Dr Husanu developed laboratory activities for Measurement and Instrumentation course as well as for quality control undergraduate and graduate courses in ET Masters program. Also, she introduced the first experiential activity for Applied Mechanics courses. She is coordinator and advisor for capstone projects for Engineering Technology.

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Michael G Mauk P.E. Drexel University

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From Lab to Market – Microfluidic Fuel Cell Stack: An Undergraduate Capstone ProjectToday renewable energy is one of the most rapidly growing industries. In the last decades there have alsobeen not only significant advances in the renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency andsustainability, but also an increased demand for trained engineers and technicians in these areas. Thisrequires the development of innovative curricula, new courses and laboratories to educate students towork in these fast changing industries. Engineering education moves into the twenty first century chargedwith an environmental agenda to respond to wider changes in the society. Enabling students to practiceself-directed learning, to find solutions to design problems that are sustainable and to recognize that theyare part of a global community are just a few of our educational goals. On the other hand, the renewableenergy and sustainability are highly interdisciplinary, crossing over between a numbers of research areas,having strong potential for hands-on multi-disciplinary project-based learning. Renewable energycapstone projects typically involve more than one discipline (electrical, mechanical, computer, civil, andchemical engineering concepts) while still being accessible to undergraduate students. A natural andefficient way of embedding renewable energy and sustainability into engineering and engineeringtechnology curricula is the problem-oriented and project-based learning approach. In this paper, we arediscussing a capstone senior design project that approaches the interdisciplinary aspects of thetranslational research in the renewable energy and sustainability. The project structure and outcomes,lesson learned and future improvements are discussed in detail. Design and development of renewableenergy and sustainability projects allow students to work on projects that can be relevant to currentleading edge research and technology.Further harnessing of new energy sources may enable miniaturizing electronic devices and making themmore portable or autonomous. Fuel cells, among other renewable energy sources, have been proven tooffer higher energy densities as well as greater flexibility related to storage and system implementation,when compared to traditional battery systems. Scaling these systems to a microfluidic level may becomethe best option for powering the myriad of portable electronic devices that have been developed in therecent years. Students selected the micro direct methanol fuel cell proof-of-concept based on literaturereview, and then they been able to develop and investigate on how to make the jump from a laboratorysetting to an actual consumer product. The goal of the project was to create a compact, rugged, andportable charging device that utilizes stacked microscale (< 1 mm feature size) direct methanol fuel cellsthat do not rely on a membrane, as fuel cell membranes are costly and problematic Throughout this pastacademic year, a team of senior students were able to effectively progress towards reaching our overallproject goal. They were able to successfully fabricate and power test the fuel cell design. Followingpower testing, multiple fuel cells were then created to be stacked in an orderly fashion for multiplyingtheir power outputs. With this stacked assembly, the creation and testing of a new and innovativemanifold design was performed to ensure proper feeding and extracting of our stacked fuel cell’s fuel andoxidant. With all the stages of the project coming together, we were finally able to 3D print the case, andassembling the actually consumer product prototype.

Ciobanescu Husanu, I. N., & Mauk, M. G. (2015, June), From Lab to Market – Microfluidic Fuel Cell Stack: An Undergraduate Capstone Project Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24140

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