Cooling down ceramic fuel cells

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Science  18 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6254, pp. 1290
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0432

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Ceramic fuel cells capable of achieving high power densities are based on oxygen-ion conductors that operate at high temperatures. The development of ceramic fuel cells that exhibit practical power densities at lower temperatures, with proton-conducting electrolytes, has been a long-standing dream, whose realization could lead to large-scale implementation of fuel cells. On page 1321 of this issue Duan et al. (1) report on three important contributions in the development of protonic ceramic fuel cells (PCFCs): the demonstration of the effective use of sintering aids to make difficult-to-prepare electrolytes that exhibit high protonic conductivities; the design of a new cathode material for PCFCs; and the development of a scalable fabrication process for cell production. Impressive performance was obtained with small-scale PCFCs at moderate temperatures. Taken together with other reports of high performance in PCFCs (2), practical ceramic fuel cells could be within reach.