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Seven Projects That Will Advance Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Research Selected by DOE for Further Development

July 27, 2012 - 1:00pm


Washington, D.C. - Seven projects that will help develop low-cost solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology for environmentally responsible central power generation from the Nation’s abundant fossil energy resources have been selected for further research by the Department of Energy (DOE).

The projects, managed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), are valued at a total of $4,391,570, with DOE contributing $3,499,250 and the remaining cost provided by the recipients. Four of the selected projects will pursue advances in cathode performance, enabling higher efficiency, lower cost systems. Three projects will study the stability and durability of cathode materials when exposed to varying levels of humidity and contaminants expected in commercial deployment.

The projects will develop solutions to current technical challenges consistent with the aggressive cost, reliability and endurance goals of the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA). The ultimate goal is the generation of efficient, cost-competitive electricity from domestic coal with near-zero emissions of carbon dioxide and air pollutants. The projects include: 

Topic Area 1: Electrochemical Performance Enhancement Activity

  • Boston University (Boston, Mass.)--The project aims to demonstrate a 50% improvement in maximum power densities of cells compared to baseline cells employing state-of-the art materials. The project plans to employ newer cathode and electrocatalyst materials and a variety of experimental and computational tools to achieve these goals. (DOE share: $499,999; Recipient share: $132,355; duration: 24 months)
  • Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.)--This project is focused primarily on evaluating heterostructured cathodes comprised of two conventional electrode materials (one exhibiting high oxygen reduction activity and the other high bulk conductivities). The project aims to dramatically improve the cathode activity by directly modifying the chemistry and structure of the nanoscale oxygen reduction active surface sites. (DOE share: $500,000; Recipient share: $125,000; duration: 36 months)
  • University of Wisconsin (Madison, Wis.)--This project is to develop perovskite-based SOFC cathodes with enhanced oxygen reduction activity. Completion of this project could enable higher power density SOFC operation at lower temperatures, reducing SOFC degradation and cost. (DOE share: $499,926; Recipient share: $125,236; duration: 36 months) West Virginia University (Morgantown, W.Va.)--The goal of this project is aimed at development of highly active and stable intermediate temperature SOFC cathodes.  (DOE share: $499,953; Recipient share: $134,886; duration: 36 months)

Topic Area 2: Durability of Cathode Materials

  • Georgia Tech Research Corporation (Atlanta, Ga.)--This project aims at establishing the scientific basis for rational design of new materials and electrode structures to mitigate the stability issues caused by the contaminants (humidity, CO2, chrome, and contaminants from other cell components) commonly encountered under realistic SOFC conditions.  (DOE share: $500,000; Recipient share: $125,000; duration: 36 months)
  • University of Connecticut (Storrs, Conn.)--This project is focused on evaluation and analysis of degradation phenomena in lanthanum manganite-based cathode electrodes when exposed to "real-world" air atmosphere conditions during SOFC systems operation by both experimentation and computational simulation.  (DOE share: $499,372; Recipient share: $124,843; duration: 24 months)
  • University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)--The objective of this project is to develop a cohesive and overarching theory that explains the microstructural and compositional cathode performance degradation mechanisms due to the mechanistic effects of moisture, CO2, Cr vapor, and particulates on cathode durability. (DOE share: $500,000; Recipient share: $125,000; duration: 36 months).

The SOFCs under development within SECA are ideal for use in central generation applications, enabling efficient and economical systems for up to 99 percent carbon capture. They also emit practically no pollutants (nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides) while consuming approximately one-third less water than other advanced power generation technologies. Power plants based on SECA fuel cells and coal gasifiers--units that turn solid coal into gaseous fuel--will generate power with overall efficiencies greater than 50 percent, compared to approximately 25 percent for traditional coal-fired power plants, including CO2 capture processes. Furthermore, SECA fuel cell technology is inherently fuel-flexible and modular, making them suitable to a wide variety of power generation applications.

Founded in 1999, SECA is a collaboration among the Federal government, private industry, academic institutions and national laboratories devoted to the development of low-cost SOFC technology. SECA is comprised of three groups: the Industry Teams, the Core Technology Program, and Federal government management. The Core Technology Program utilizes researchers in a wide variety of fields and disciplines to conduct applied research and development into cross-cutting technical issues encountered by the Industry Teams. Specific emphasis in this new work is placed on enhancing the reliability, robustness and endurance of SOFC stacks to commercially viable levels.