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L An received his PhD degree in Mechanical Engineering from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, China. He is currently an Assistant Professor in Department of Mechanical Engineering at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China. He has authored and co-authored more than 60 journal papers. His research interests include advanced energy conversion and storage technologies, such as fuel cells and flow batteries.
Direct ethanol fuel cells (DEFC), which promise to be a clean and efficient energy production technology, have recently attracted worldwide attention, primarily because ethanol is a carbon-neutral, sustainable fuel and possesses many unique physicochemical properties including high energy density and ease of transportation, storage as well as handling. However, conventional DEFCs, which use acid proton exchange membranes and precious metal catalysts, result in rather low performance. In our research, we use alkaline anion exchange membranes as the solid electrolyte in DEFCs. It is demonstrated that the change from the acid membrane to an alkaline one leads to a significant performance boost. In addition, we also develop a novel hybrid DEFC, which consists of an alkaline anode and an acid cathode. To further optimize and improve the performance, we develop an integrated model for the direct ethanol fuel cell system. This high performance is attributed not only to the unique design, but also to the use of the integrated model.