Project No: NT0004396
Performer: Pennsylvania State University


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

Joseph Stoffa
Project Manager
National Energy Technology Laboratory
3610 Collins Ferry Road
P.O. Box 880, MS P03B
Morgantown, WV 26507-0880
(304) 285-0285

Chunshan Song
Principal Investigator
Pennsylvania State University
EMS Energy Institute and Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering
C211 Coal Utilization Lab
University Park, PA 16802
(814) 863-4466

Award Date:  10/01/2008
Project Date:  09/30/2014

DOE Share: $3,734,954.00
Performer Share: $1,032,829.00
Total Award Value: $4,767,783.00

Performer website: Pennsylvania State University -

Advanced Energy Systems - Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells Operating on Alternative and Renewable Fuels

Project Description

In this Congressionally-directed project, Pennsylvania State University (PSU) will develop fuel processors for anaerobic digester gas (ADG) and commercial diesel fuels. These fuel processors will transform ADG and diesel fuel into syngas fuel, which can be utilized in solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). The trace contaminants present in the ADG and diesel-derived syngas fuel are expected to overlap coal syngas contaminants with respect to level and variety of contaminants. Therefore this work will also include the development of adsorbents suitable for trace contaminant removal. Data from the operation of SOFCs on reformed diesel fuel will be applicable to early market SOFC spin-off applications, e.g., truck auxiliary power units (APUs).

The major work of this project is focused on the 1) preparation and evaluation of novel sorbents including molecular basket sorbent (MBS) and mixed metal oxides adsorbents for ADG cleanup; 2) improvement of the adsorption performance of mesoporous molecular sieve supported nickel (Ni) adsorbents and mixed Titanium-Cerium-Oxygen (Ti-Ce-O) based adsorbents for adsorptive desulfurization of ULSD; 3) evaluation and characterization of Ni-based catalysts for steam reforming of commercial diesel fuel; and 4) the testing of SOFC stack delivered to PSU by Delphi, and 5) the continued operation of a Ni-yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) single cell SOFC on both a model ADG and also a commercial diesel reformate.

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 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.

Researchers at Penn State University will work to develop new fuel processing approaches for using commercial diesel fuel and anaerobic digester gas in solid oxide fuel cell power generation systems. The researchers will conduct integrated fuel processor-solid oxide fuel cell system tests which will allow them to evaluate the performance of the fuel processors and overall systems.

Project Scope and Technology Readiness Level

Pennsylvania State University (PSU) will develop fuel processors for Anaerobic Digester Gas (ADG) and commercial diesel fuels, respectively, for integration with SOFC power generation systems. PSU will be responsible for the development of the adsorbent and reforming catalyst formulations, testing the adsorbents and reforming catalysts in laboratory flow reactor systems, the analytical characterization of trace level contaminants in the fuel processor reformate stream, and delivery of testing results. The fuel processor designs shall remove any harmful constituents from the fuels that may adversely affect SOFC performance, including the partial reformation of the fuel to remove higher hydrocarbon components. Additionally, inert components such as carbon dioxide may also be separated from the fuel stream. PSU will define the optimal fuel composition that supports the most effective fuel processing technology while maintaining adequate SOFC test platform performance.

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".