Direct Methane Solid Oxide Fuel Cells and Their Related Applications

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Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), renowned for their high electrical generation efficiency with low pollutant production, are promising for reducing global energy and environmental concerns. However, there are major barriers for SOFC commercialization. A primary challenge is reducing the capital cost of SOFC power plants to levels that can compete with other generation methods. While the focus of this thesis research was on operation of SOFCs directly with methane fuel, the underlying motivation was to make SOFCs more competitive by reducing their cost. This can be achieved by making SOFCs that reduce the size and complexity of the required "balance of plant". Firstly, direct operation of SOFCs on methane is desirable since it can eliminate the external reformer. However, effective means must be found to suppress deleterious anode coking in methane. In this thesis, the operating conditions under which SOFCs can operate stably and without anode coking were investigated in detail, and the underlying mechanisms of coking and degradation were determined. Furthermore, a novel design utilizing an inert anode barrier layer was developed and shown to substantially improve stability against coking. Secondly, the direct methane SOFCs were investigated for use as electrochemical partial oxidation (EPOx) reactors that can co-generate electricity and synthesis gas (CO+H2) from methane. The results indicated that conventional SOFCs work quite well as methane partial oxidation reactors, producing syngas at relatively high rates. While this approach would not decrease the cost of SOFC power plant, it would improve prospects for commercialization by increasing the value of the power plant, because two products, electricity and syngas, can be sold. Thirdly, SOFCs utilizing thin (La,Sr)(Ga,Mg)O3 electrolytes were demonstrated. This highly conductive material allows lower SOFC operation temperature, leading to the use of lower-cost materials for sealing, interconnection, and balance of plant. Deleterious electrolyte/electrode reactions and electrolyte La loss were avoided during high-temperature co-firing by using thin La-doped ceria barrier layers, allowing very high power densities at moderate operating temperatures. (La,Sr)(Ga,Mg)O3-(La,Sr)(Fe,Co)O3 composite cathodes were investigated and optimal processing parameters that yield low interfacial polarization resistance at intermediate temperature were determined.

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  • 05/14/2018
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