Direct Formic Acid Fuel Cells (DFAFC)

Direct Formic Acid Fuel Cells are proton exchange membrane fuel cells that use formic acid as the source of protons. They generally are used only in small applications given the limited amount of power (< 50 watts) they can produce.

Function and Reactions of DFAFCs

Formic acid is combined with oxygen to create carbon dioxide and water in the overall reaction in these FCs. Like other PEMFCs, Formic acid is oxidized at the anode, with the help of a palladium catalyst, to produce protons, electrons, and carbon dioxide.

Benefits of DFAFCs

The main advantage to DFAFCs is that formic acid is a liquid at room temperature and can easily be stored. Because formic acid will not cross the membrane, it is also more efficient than the very similar direct methanol fuel cell.

DFAFCs are sometimes combined with standard laptop batteries to produce power supplies that provide extended use. The fuel cell is used to recharge the battery and can be replaced when empty. Hybrid fuel cell-batteries deliver roughly twice the time between charges with only a 10 to 15% increase in price over traditional batteries.

Drawbacks of DFAFCs

Direct Formic Acid Fuel Cells are only practical for small applications and cannot produce enough energy for large settings. Additionally, they are not as efficient as hydrogen fuel cells or even methanol fuel cells. Comparatively speaking, the same quantity of methanol will provide 4 times the amount of energy as formic acid.