Imagine a power source so small, yet so efficient, that it could
make cumbersome power plants virtually obsolete while
lowering your electric bill.
As the director of the University of Houston Center for
Advanced Materials (CAM), Alex Ignatiev, distinguished university
professor of physics, chemistry, and electrical and computer
engineering is working on thin film solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs)
whose potential uses range from matters of defense and space
travel, to driving forces in the consumer market that include
computers and electricity.
Traditional fuel cells can take up an entire room, but the CAM
thin film SOFCs have active layers of only one micron thick—the
equivalent of about one-hundredth of a human hair—dropping
their operating temperature by nearly 550°C and making them
ideal for a range of applications, where weight and size are factors,
such as laptop computers and spacesuits.
“While there are a number of fuel cell research programs at the
university,” said Ignatiev, “ours focuses on the application of thin
film science and technology to gain the benefits of efficiency and