Harvesting waste heat energy by promoting H+-ion concentration difference with a fuel cell structure

Yan Liu, Yuanzhen Chen, Jun Ming, Li Chen, Chengyong Shu, Ting Qu, Qiang Tan, Yongning Liu, Tewodros Asefa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Energy consumption continues to rise as society develops worldwide. Meanwhile, a lot of energy is wasted in the form of heat from various devices and systems. Here we report a new power generator, which works based on a difference in H+-ion concentration in a fuel cell structure and produces electricity by harvesting waste heat. The device works via the following three successive processes: H2 is oxidized at anode to H+ ions, the H+ ions then penetrate through a phosphoric acid-treated polybenzimidazole (PBI-PA) membrane and finally the H+ ions get reduced to H2 at cathode with electrons coming through external circuit from the anode. This system generates electricity at a current density of 21 mA cm−2 and a power density of 1.03 mW cm−2 at 170 °C. The cell's thermoelectric conversion efficiency at 170 °C is 13.72%, which is higher than typical values reported for many common thermoelectric materials in low temperature regimes. This innovative approach may allow for efficient generation of electricity from waste heat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-107
Number of pages7
JournalNano Energy
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • Electrical energy
  • Fuel cell
  • H-ion concentration cell
  • Renewable energy
  • Thermal conversion
  • Waste heat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Harvesting waste heat energy by promoting H<sup>+</sup>-ion concentration difference with a fuel cell structure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this