Program Background and Project Benefits
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is developing the next generation of efficient fossil fuel technologies capable of producing affordable electric power with near-zero emissions. The Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) program at DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is focused on developing low-cost, highly efficient SOFC power systems that are capable of simultaneously producing electric power, from either natural gas or coal, with carbon capture capabilities. Research is directed towards the technologies that are critical to the commercialization of SOFC technology. To successfully complete the development of SOFC technology from the present state to the point of commercial readiness, the SOFC Program efforts are aligned into three Key Technologies:
(1) Anode, Cathode, and Electrolyte (AEC) Development
(2) Atmospheric Pressure Systems
(3) Pressurized Systems
The AEC Development Key Technology is R&D in nature whereas the other two, Atmospheric Pressure Systems and Pressurized Systems, are focused on the development, demonstration, and deployment of SOFC power systems.
The AEC Development Key Technology consists of projects that will lead to substantially improved power density, enhanced performance, reduced degradation rate, and more reliable and robust systems. Research is focused on the technologies critical to the commercialization of SOFC technology, such as cathode performance, gas seals, interconnects, failure analysis, coal contaminants, fuel processing, and balance-of-plant components. Research is conducted at universities, national laboratories, small businesses, and other R&D organizations.
This project focuses on improving cell power density and reducing the cell degradation rate by developing newer cathode and electrocatalyst materials. Improved cell/stack life and performance will reduce operating cost and increase efficiency, resulting in reduction in the cost of electricity and reduction of CO2 emissions from the entire platform. Specifically, this project will employ a combination of experimental and computational tools to probe the surface composition and oxidations states, measure surface exchange and diffusion coefficients of cathode materials, use experimental and theoretical research on thin film cathodes to narrow the choice of newer cathode materials and composition, fabricate and test single cells using selected cathode materials and composition, characterize the microstructure of the cells, and optimize materials choice and cathode microstructure.