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.
NETL researchers are investigating three tasks within this project:
Task 2 - Cell and Stack Degradation: This project focuses on the investigation of degradation modes exhibited by the anode, electrolyte, and cathode (AEC), the development of computational models describing the degradation rates, and generation of a modeling tool predicting long term AEC degradation response. 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 conduct cell tests, utilize conventional electrochemical techniques to measure performance, and employ advanced spectroscopic techniques in post-test analysis.
Task 3 - Electrode Engineering: This project focuses on the development and performance evaluation of electrode materials and structure that improve peak cell power output while maintaining cost and durability metrics. 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 identify and characterize manufacturing processes, select and evaluate candidate materials, conduct lab-scale performance and stability tests, and demonstrate the preferred process and materials in short-stack testing.
Task 5 - System Level Economic and Process Models: This project focuses on estimating component and system costs and the economic benefits of technical innovations. 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 estimate the economic benefits associated with the fundamental and applied research completed in other program-sponsored R&D projects.