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Brian and UCFER Hands
NETL leadership and experts, including NETL Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D., joined representatives from 11 universities as they gathered virtually to discuss project successes during the 2021 University Coalition for Fossil Energy Research (UCFER) Annual Technical Review Meeting this week. NETL Deputy Director and Chief Technology Officer Sean Plasynski, Ph.D., kicked off the second day of the meeting with opening remarks, proceeded by an administrative update from UCFER DOE Project Officer Omer Bakshi. “UCFER has provided significant results since its inception six years ago,” Bakshi said. “To date, 18 of the 43 funded projects have been completed, and 25 are ongoing. The presentations we saw this week confirmed that the research of our partner universities will continue to lead to important breakthroughs for the decarbonization of the economy.”
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NETL Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D., will welcome representatives from 11 universities for the virtual 2021 University Coalition for Fossil Energy Research (UCFER) Annual Technical Review Meeting Oct. 5-6, 2021. “Partnerships like UCFER help the Lab leverage its connections, resources and expertise to develop critical carbon management technologies,” Anderson said. “The dedication of our University partners across UCFER to our mission is an inspiration when we see the innovations from see the best and brightest minds from universities across the country.” During the two-day event, researchers for selected active projects will give virtual presentations on technologies spanning topics that will include carbon capture, carbon storage, crosscutting research, carbon ore processing, fuel cell technologies, gasification systems, coal and coal-biomass to liquids, natural gas technologies, and rare earth elements.
Fuel Cell
NETL is collaborating with a team of researchers from UES Services Inc., the University of Connecticut and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to explore a novel class of advanced materials called high-entropy alloys (HEAs) that have the potential to overcome long-standing technical barriers for the manufacture of more resilient solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). SOFCs are devices that can chemically convert the energy of a fuel and oxidant directly into electrical energy. Since they produce electricity through an electrochemical reaction and not through a multi-step (e.g., combustion to heat to generator power) process, they are much more efficient and better for the environment than conventional electric power generation processes. These characteristics make SOFCs uniquely valuable to achieving the U.S. Department of Energy’s decarbonization goals.
Hackett
NETL expertise in energy conversion engineering was front-and-center at the 17th International Symposium on Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC-XVII) digital meeting, held July 18-23, 2021, as NETL SOFC Technical Portfolio Lead Gregory Hackett, Ph.D., co-chaired the “Cell, Stack, and System Modeling and Simulation” session and served as moderator for a live Q&A event with conference participants. SOFCs are an important technology option for reaching decarbonization goals of carbon-free power production by 2035 and a net-zero economy by 2050. Electrochemical devices that convert the chemical energy of a fuel and oxidant directly into electrical energy, SOFCs produce electricity through an electrochemical reaction and not through a combustion process. They are much more efficient and environmentally benign than conventional electric power generation processes, and their inherent characteristics make them uniquely suitable to address the environmental, climate change, and water concerns associated with fossil fuel based electric power generation.
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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected 12 projects to receive approximately $16.5 million in federal funding for cost-shared cooperative agreements to help recalibrate the nation’s vast fossil-fuel and power infrastructure for decarbonized energy and commodity production. The selected projects will develop technologies for the production, transport, storage and utilization of fossil-based hydrogen, with progress toward net-zero carbon emissions.   
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NETL presents the latest edition of its publication that showcases research on emerging energy technologies. NETL Edge shares the latest developments the Lab’s mission to drive innovation and deliver solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. In this issue, we feature key research and technology development in integrated energy systems for net-zero carbon electricity. Check out the newly released edition of NETL Edge to learn more about combining technology and versatility to optimize energy production and lower emissions, finding answers to carbon storage in by using advanced technologies to examine rock cores, building a strong foundation for integrated energy systems through energy conversion research and more. https://go.usa.gov/xHnJD
SOFC FiberOptic Sensor Development
Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) hold great promise for providing highly efficient, clean energy for a low-carbon economy. However, adoption of these next-generation technologies hinges on reducing component degradation and improving longevity. The ability to make numerous, real-time, highly accurate temperature measurements across an SOFC could better inform SOFC modeling efforts aimed at designing more resilient fuel cells. To this end, NETL researchers, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh, have successfully embedded multiple distributed fiber optic sensors into an SOFC multi-cell test to achieve a previously unattainable degree of spatial resolution in temperature measurement. The work was recently featured in an article in the prestigious journal Applied Energy.
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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and NETL have announced a request for information (RFI) about hydrogen technology opportunities and research needs that could lead to advances in hydrogen technologies. Advances in hydrogen technologies that are capable of improving overall performance, reliability, and flexibility of existing technologies to produce, transport, store, and use hydrogen will enable the United States to continue to extract maximum economic value from its fossil-fueled energy system assets. It will also allow the United States to produce carbon-neutral hydrogen and eliminate the carbon footprint often associated with fossil energy use.  In this RFI, DOE is specifically interested in gathering information relevant to five topic areas: (1) natural gas hydrogen production, transport, and storage; (2) hydrogen production from gasification of fossil fuel and other materials, especially waste plastics and biomass; (3) hydrogen turbines; (4) hydrogen storage; and (5) hybrid energy systems with reversible solid oxide fuel cells to produce hydrogen.
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NETL’s work with solid oxide fuel cells is enhancing the nation’s electric grid by generating combustion-free power with minimal environmental impact. The Lab is now extending its research vision to develop reversible solid oxide cells, which can alternately either generate power or produce clean-burning fuel. Solid oxide cells operate in two modes: fuel cell mode and electrolysis mode. Solid oxide cells operating in fuel cell mode are known as solid oxide fuel cells, or SOFCs, while solid oxide cells operating in electrolysis mode are known as solid oxide electrolysis cells, or SOECs. SOFCs convert chemical energy from a fuel directly into electrical energy. A fuel source such as hydrogen, natural gas or syngas is fed into the cell, and electricity, water and/or CO2 are produced as byproducts. Since SOFCs produce electricity through an electrochemical reaction and not through a combustion process, they are much more environmentally friendly than conventional electric power generation methods due to higher efficiencies, reduced water usage and reduced CO2 emissions.
SOFC
NETL researchers are exploring how heterogeneity, or a lack of uniform structure and composition, on a microscopic level can affect the performance of solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) components. SOFCs, which, like batteries, create electricity directly through electrochemical reactions, are extremely efficient, require minimal water consumption and generate almost no emissions; however, SOFCs face issues with reliability, durability and cost. NETL researchers are working to overcome these problems by studying what effect heterogeneity has on fuel cell degradation, helping to clear the way to commercial development.