Review

Lowering the Temperature of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

Science  18 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6058, pp. 935-939
DOI: 10.1126/science.1204090

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Abstract

Fuel cells are uniquely capable of overcoming combustion efficiency limitations (e.g., the Carnot cycle). However, the linking of fuel cells (an energy conversion device) and hydrogen (an energy carrier) has emphasized investment in proton-exchange membrane fuel cells as part of a larger hydrogen economy and thus relegated fuel cells to a future technology. In contrast, solid oxide fuel cells are capable of operating on conventional fuels (as well as hydrogen) today. The main issue for solid oxide fuel cells is high operating temperature (about 800°C) and the resulting materials and cost limitations and operating complexities (e.g., thermal cycling). Recent solid oxide fuel cells results have demonstrated extremely high power densities of about 2 watts per square centimeter at 650°C along with flexible fueling, thus enabling higher efficiency within the current fuel infrastructure. Newly developed, high-conductivity electrolytes and nanostructured electrode designs provide a path for further performance improvement at much lower temperatures, down to ~350°C, thus providing opportunity to transform the way we convert and store energy.

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