Innovative fuel and new catalyst ink

An innovative, formic acid fuel mixture enhanced by a safer and more efficient catalyst yields higher currents and superior performance in portable fuel cells.

This technology uses highly concentrated formic acid as a fuel in microwatt to 5 watt fuel cells and a state-of-the-art carbon-monoxide-tolerant catalyst for formic acid oxidation within the fuel cell itself. The new catalyst is created using innovative technology that synthesizes practical nanoparticle catalysts based on spontaneous deposition. While retaining the advantages of methanol fuel cells, innovative formic acid fuel cells offer significant advantages when used for portable power systems.

  • Formic acid fuel is a liquid that is easy to store and is not explosive.
  • Formic acid water solutions show negligible crossover and cathode poisoning.
  • Formic acid fuel cells use much less water, reducing the need to store or recycle water.
  • Formic acid is a great electrolyte, so there are fewer contact resistances.

This breakthrough catalyst technology allows the fuel cell to produce more current for a given precious metal loading or allows a given amount of current to be produced with a smaller amount of precious metal. This new ink/electrolyte matrix retains the advantages of previous inks, gives higher fuel and proton conductivity, and provides for electron conduction.


Direct formic acid fuel cells may find a niche in two distinct power range applications: microwatts to 5 watts. By employing current stack technology developed for direct methanol fuel cells, direct formic acid fuel cells could replace bulky, short-life-span batteries in portable power applications running off of several hundreds of milliwatts. Portable power applications might include cellular phones, laptop computers,palm pilots, and electronic game devices. Direct formic acid micro fuel cells could be developed to power micro-electrochemical mechanical systems (MEMS)devices. Different functions including power, sensing, actuation, and RF transmission could be integrated onto a single chip. This would significantly impact military technology, including battlefield sensors, smart mobile weapons, airborne and shipboard sensor networks, and portable hazardous gas detectors.