Understanding of Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Stack in Pressurized Conditions


US Department of the Navy
Award Number:  FE0005652
Project Duration:  10/01/2012 – 03/31/2014
Total Award Value:  $149,858.00
DOE Share:  $149,858.00
Performer Share:  $0.00
Technology Area:  Solid Oxide Fuel Cells
Key Technology:  Pressurized Systems

Project Description

The Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) will procure a Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) stack and install it into a test platform capable of producing pressurized and air-independent operating conditions. Pure oxygen usage at the cathode will simulate the air-independent performance needed for unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV) operations. Reliable methods for pressure control and stack operation will be refined in order to test the SECA SOFC stack at elevated pressure.

NUWC will construct a test cell that includes pressure controls, gas analysis, and data acquisition. While the SOFC stack will be the main item under test, NUWC will also be testing its own control algorithms and back pressure regulators that equalize the pressures at the cathode, anode, and ambient zones (external to the SOFC stack). Minimizing the pressure differentials between any two zones limits the amount of gas leakage while also increasing efficiency and reliability.

NUWC will assemble the system and will use (and purchase if necessary) appropriate heaters and insulation to ensure the proper operating temperature of the SOFC stack. A mass spectrometer will be used to monitor gas compositions at various locations in the system, and a condenser will collect water at the anode exhaust.

Project Benefits

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is developing the next generation of efficient fossil fuel technologies capable of producing affordable electric power with near-zero emissions. The Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) program at DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is focused on developing low-cost, highly efficient SOFC power systems that are capable of simultaneously producing electric power, from either natural gas or coal, with carbon capture capabilities. Research is directed towards the technologies that are critical to the commercialization of SOFC technology. To successfully complete the development of SOFC technology from the present state to the point of commercial readiness, the SOFC Program efforts are aligned into three Key Technologies:

(1) Anode, Cathode, and Electrolyte (AEC) Development
(2) Atmospheric Pressure Systems
(3) Pressurized Systems

The AEC Development Key Technology is R&D in nature whereas the other two, Atmospheric Pressure Systems and Pressurized Systems, are focused on the development, demonstration, and deployment of SOFC power systems.

The AEC Development Key Technology consists of projects that will lead to substantially improved power density, enhanced performance, reduced degradation rate, and more reliable and robust systems. Research is focused on the technologies critical to the commercialization of SOFC technology, such as cathode performance, gas seals, interconnects, failure analysis, coal contaminants, fuel processing, and balance-of-plant components. Research is conducted at universities, national laboratories, small businesses, and other R&D organizations.

The US Navy Undersea Warfare Center, in order to develop an unmanned undersea vehicle, will investigate solid oxide fuel cells as a power source. To accomplish this, Navy researchers will investigate using pure oxygen in their solid oxide fuel cells. Performance of fuel cells using pure oxygen at elevated pressure will also be evaluated. Results of this research could be used for future coal gasification plants as oxygen-blown coal gasifiers could be developed such that pure oxygen is fed to the solid oxide fuel cell power block.

Contact Information

Federal Project Manager 
Travis Shultz: Travis.Shultz@netl.doe.gov
Technology Manager 
Shailesh Vora: Shailesh.Vora@netl.doe.gov
Principal Investigator 

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