Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Research Group
Our research is primarily involved in the high temperature (greater than 600oC) electrical and mechanical properties of solid state ionic and electronically conducting materials. Applications for such materials include, but are not limited to, solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), oxygen separation membranes and oxygen pumps and sensors. To date the work has concentrated on the properties of new and existing SOFC materials.
Solid Oxide Fuel Cell
A SOFC is a high temperature all solid state electrochemical reactor that converts the energy of a fuel directly into electricity, without the requirement of intermediate steps.
Most SOFC’s run at between 850-1000oC, however in the next generation of SOFC systems, emphasis is being placed on lowering the temperature of operation to 600 – 800oC, as this will greatly reduce sealing problems, allow the use of cheaper materials (such as the interconnect, and the BOP) and allow for internal reformation reaction temperatures to be optimized.
Figure 1 shows an exploded view of a SOFC system with the ceramic components described.
The main emphasis of the SOFC research group is:
- Explore the high temperature mechanical/structural relationships of new and existing SOFC materials. This is primarily for electrolyte and electrode supported structures (such as anode supports) and also examines how these components behave under “real” operating conditions. Computer modeling of the structures in different SOFC configurations is also performed to understand the best configuration for a particular application.
- Study of new electrolyte systems based on the perovskite structure; this is from the viewpoint of its electrical, mechanical and behavioral/stability within a SOFC operating environment.
- Optimization of the fabrication of SOFC systems using extrusion and tape casting methods to produce single cells and small stacks in different configurations (eg micro-tubular and planar).
- Running small stacks and single cells under different operating conditions and different fuels; studying the cells’ long-term behavior.
- In-situ internal reforming reactions, particularly for liquid fuels such as diesel, and gaseous fuels such as natural gas.
- Mechanical and structural modeling of SOFC stacks.
- Fabrication of intermediate temperature SOFC stacks using new and existing electrolyte/electrode configurations.
- Integration of SOFC stacks into real-life environmental conditions (long term studies under real loads, for example)