WASHINGTON, DC - The Department of Energy today announced the selection of six research and development (R&D) projects expected to further enhance solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology, moving it one step closer to commercialization. These projects, part of DOE's Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA), build upon earlier Phase I research to support the development of efficient, low-cost and near-zero emissions SOFC power systems.
"The projects selected reflect yet another step forward in the President's Hydrogen and Climate Initiatives, which envision a key role for fuel cells," said Jeffrey Jarrett, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy. "These projects are expected to further push fuel cell technology toward the ultimate application of fuel cells in FutureGen, the zero-emissions coal-fired plant of the future."
These Phase II Core Technology Program materials and fuel processing R&D projects provide the technology solutions required to achieve the SECA goal of commercially viable ($400/kW) SOFC power generation systems by 2010. By reaching that target, fuel cells become economically competitive with conventional power systems.
The ultimate application of SECA fuel cells is FutureGen, the world's cleanest coal-based power plant, which will render our most abundant and underutilized resource virtually pollution-free. In addition, the advantages of SECA fuel-cell technology make it applicable to a wide variety of commercial and military markets, in both stationary and mobile applications.
Launched in 1999, SECA is a collaboration between government, the private sector, and the scientific community to develop modular, low-cost, near-zero emissions SOFC systems that can operate on coal syngas, natural gas, and hydrogen. The Core Technology Program teams provide the vital R&D addressing technical issues common to the six SECA Industry Teams, avoiding wasteful duplication of effort. The Industry Teams leverage the collective ingenuity of the Core Technology teams to independently pursue innovations in fuel cell design. The Industry Teams are working to solve the challenges of fuel cell technology, each using different approaches and techniques. As a result, the SECA program is rich in innovation, driven by competition, allowing it to reach its goals that much faster.
Fuel cells are very high-efficiency, electrochemical devices that directly convert the chemical energy of a fuel into electrical energy without the need for an intervening heat engine. They produce power by combining hydrogen?extracted from any fossil fuel or from renewable energy sources?and oxygen in an electrochemical reaction. Although fuel cells generate electric current in much the same way as a battery, they have important advantages over batteries since they can operate continuously, for years, as long as fuel is supplied.
DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory manages the SECA program. The six projects selected in this second phase have a total value of $1.15 million, including recipient cost sharing of at least 20 percent. The competitive renewal selections include the following:
- The Georgia Institute of Technology will focus on the assessment and characterization of sulfur poisoning of SOFCs, focusing on the evaluation of long-term performance stability relative to the low hydrogen sulfide concentrations expected in fuels of the future. DOE award: $300,000; cost share: $75,000; 24 months duration.
- The University of Missouri-Rolla will continue to focus on glass-based SOFC seal development, with emphasis on invert silicate glasses. DOE award: $100,000; cost share: $25,000; 12 months duration.
- Tennessee Technological University will optimize the new class of alloys developed in Phase I for SOFC interconnect applications, and test them under realistic SOFC operating conditions. DOE award: $150,000; cost share: $37,500; 12 months duration.
- Arcomac Surface Engineering, LLC will conduct additional investigations into the multi-layered nanostructured coating for SOFC interconnect applications developed in Phase I, with emphasis on the evaluation of the composition, function and stability of the coating. DOE award: $100,000; cost share: $25,000; 12 months duration.
- The University of Cincinnati will further develop the "self-healing" glass seals developed in Phase I, with the objective of demonstrating long-term viability. DOE award: $200,000; cost share: $50,000; 24 months duration.
- Delevan Inc. dba/Turbine Fuel Technologies will continue to develop the Phase I diesel injector and mixing chamber technology to improve injector performance. DOE award: $300,000; cost share: $75,000; 24 months duration.