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The inherent limited capacity of current battery technology is not sufficient for covering the increasing power requirements of widely extended portable devices. Among other promising alternatives, recent advances in the field of micro-Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (mu-SOFCs) converted this disruptive technology into a serious candidate to power next generations of portable devices. However, the implementation of single cells in real devices, i.e. mu-SOFC stacks coupled to the required balance-of-plant elements like fuel reformers or post combustors, still remains unexplored. This work aims addressing this system-level research by proposing a new compact design of a vertically stacked device fuelled with ethanol. The feasibility and design optimization for achieving a thermally self-sustained regime and a rapid and low-power consuming start-up is studied by finite volume analysis. An optimal thermal insulation strategy is defined to maintain the steady-state operation temperature of the mu-SOFC at 973 K and an external temperature lower than 323 K. A hybrid start-up procedure, based on heaters embedded in the mu-SOFCs and heat released by chemical reactions in the post-combustion unit, is analyzed allowing start-up times below 1 min and energy consumption under 500 J. These results clearly demonstrate the feasibility of high temperature mu-SOFC power systems fuelled with hydrocarbons for portable applications, therefore, anticipating a new family of mobile and uninterrupted power generators.