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Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Research Advances Clean, Efficient Energy Technology
Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Research Advances Clean, Efficient Energy Technology

Director’s Corner

by Brian Anderson, PhD.

Developing technologies that operate on abundant domestic energy sources with responsible stewardship of the environment is a key component of NETL’s mission to discover, integrate and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. That’s why development of a highly efficient electricity generation technology fueled by coal or natural gas with near-zero emissions is an exciting milestone accomplishment. Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) possess these attributes, and we believe SOFC technology holds great promise toward meeting our nation’s energy challenges.  

SOFCs are uniquely suited to address the environmental, climate change, and water concerns associated with fossil fuel-based electric power generation. Without combustion, with the common method of extracting energy from coal and gas, these devices convert the chemical energy of a fuel and oxidant (oxygen extracted from air) into electrical energy and can operate on coal or natural gas. SOFC power systems are quiet, modular, and fuel-flexible. They also are inherently carbon capture ready and require only one-third the amount of water relative to conventional combustion-based power systems.

The challenge is making this technology more cost effective. Currently, SOFCs are expensive to produce and have a short lifespan. But NETL is working to change that picture and find ways to hasten SOFC commercialization.

Researchers are working to improve the electrochemical performance and cell power density, reduce long-term degradation, develop more robust cells, and reduce costs. These efforts will ultimately improve the economics of implementing SOFC technology for wide-scale implementation.

This month, we’re featuring our leading-edge SOFC research in a series of feature stories. Visit our newsroom to learn more about how NETL researchers are:

  • Using cutting-edge computational tools to model thousands of simulated microstructures to boost the performance and longevity of energy-efficient, near-zero-emission SOFCs.
  • Exploring how heterogeneity, or a lack of uniform structure and composition, on a microscopic level can affect the performance of SOFC components
  • Investigating how reversible SOFCs, which can generate power and produce clean-burning hydrogen, can be made available for widespread implementation.

I’m proud of the successes our researchers have made in advancing SOFC technology and anticipate significant new breakthroughs soon. SOFCs hold promise for clean, affordable power from fossil fuels, as well as effective integration of renewable energy sources. The ultimate result can mean highly efficient electricity generation and energy solutions more tailored to communities and local areas. Our contributions in this technology area are just one more example of how NETL is producing technological solutions to America’s energy challenges.