Project No: FG02-06ER46299
Performer: West Virginia University


Shailesh Vora
Technology Manager
National Energy Technology Laboratory
626 Cochrans Mill Road
P.O. Box 10940,MS 922-204
Pittsburgh, PA 15236-0940
(412) 386-7515

Briggs White
Project Manager
National Energy Technology Laboratory
3610 Collins Ferry Road
P.O. Box 880, PO3B
Morgantown, WV 26507-0880
(304) 285-5437

Ismail Celik
Principal Investigator
West Virginia University
P.O. Box 6106
Morgantown, WV 26506
(304) 293-3209

Award Date:  09/05/2006
Project Date:  12/31/2013

DOE Share: $3,450,000.00
Performer Share: $3,181,048.00
Total Award Value: $6,631,048.00

Performer website: West Virginia University -

Advanced Energy Systems - Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

Direct Utilization of Coal Syngas in High Temperature Fuel Cells

Project Description

In this project WVU will identify the fundamental mechanisms of carbon deposition and coal contaminant poisoning of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs), and will develop novel materials to minimize the impact of these contaminants on fuel cell performance. The effects of trace contaminants found in coal will be characterized and remedies for any adverse effects proposed. The research will focus on the modeling, manufacture, and testing of SOFCs fueled by simulated coal gas.

Program Background and 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 Anode-Electrolyte-Cathode (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.

This project focuses on characterizing the effects of impurities found in syngas, developing a model to predict SOFC life when operating on syngas, and developing contaminant-resistant anode materials. Improved cell/stack life and performance will reduce operating cost and increase efficiency, resulting in reduction in the cost of electricity and reduction of CO2 emissions from the entire platform. Specifically, this project will conduct accelerated anode exposure tests to syngas contaminants, build a model based on the experimental data to predict the lifetime of the anode operating on syngas, and design and develop alternative anode components that are contaminant tolerant.

Project Scope and Technology Readiness Level

This project is based on a multi-scale, multi-disciplinary approach and comprises three integrated tasks: (1) characterization of contaminant effects; (2) multi-scale continuum modeling; and (3) anode material development. The knowledge base gained from experiments will be used in multi-scale computational models to establish the tolerance limits for the impurities and to predict the life of SOFCs operating on coal syngas that contains impurities.

Long term anode exposure tests to phosphine (PH3) will be conducted with measurement of out-of-plane surface deformations at specified time intervals to quantify the PH3 effect on structural properties. The test results will facilitate the development of long-term anode structural durability and electrochemical degradation models under coal syngas utilization. A model will be built based on the experimental data to determine the influence of the electrical current and water content on the degradation rate and nickel (Ni) migration. A mass spectrometer will be connected to the point at which contaminant gases are mixed with the fuel stream to confirm the composition of gases entering the hot zone of the tube furnace. A sampling tube will be constructed at a point just above the anode surface for sampling and analyses of gasses. These gas analyses will be correlated to determine the fate of contaminants (phosphine, hydrogen sulfide, etc.) inside the furnace as a function of the initial fuel composition, temperature, and current flow through the SOFC. Alternative ceramic anode components will be designed and developed for operation in sulfur- and phosphor-containing coal syngas using contaminant tolerant materials. West Virginia University’s research experience in SOFC manufacturing and mixed oxides impregnation, together with an atmospheric high-temperature instrument, will be utilized to overcome technical barriers.

The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) assessment identifies the current state of readiness of the key technologies being developed under the DOE’s Clean Coal Research Program. In FY 12, this project was not assessed.

The TRL assessment process and its results including definition and description of the levels may be found in the "2012 Technology Readiness Assessment-Analysis of Active Research Portfolio".