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May 20, 2002
Volume 80, Number 20
CENEAR 80 20 pp. 32-36
ISSN 0009-2347

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

With four industrial partners sharing costs, the Department of Energy is in the second year of a $500 million, 10-year R&D program to commercialize solid oxide fuel cells. PNNL and DOE's National Energy Technology Lab are coordinating the program.

Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), unlike other fuel-cell types, have the advantage of being powered by readily available hydrocarbon fuels such as natural gas, rather than pure hydrogen, says Subhash C. Singhal (right), Battelle fellow and director of PNNL's fuel-cell program.



Their greatest potential is in stationary power generation, particularly distributed generation and industrial settings, such as chemical companies, where the cells' high heat can provide process steam or be coupled to a turbine to generate more electricity. These combos can raise efficiency to 75%, far greater than a coal- or gas-fired power plant, and without the air pollution.

The biggest disadvantage is high cost, says Singhal, who adds that most fuel-cell R&D funding has gone to proton-exchange membranes that are adaptable to smaller applications.

PNNL's SOFC research has focused on a planar design that allows thin cells to be stacked to raise output wattage. More than 30 PNNL researchers take part in the lab's fuel-cell program.

Some of the more interesting SOFC applications being explored, Singhal says, are prototypes to supply electricity to a field soldier or an auxiliary power unit that provides electricity to a motor vehicle and replaces the alternator.

PNNL's partner on the automotive project, Delphi Corp., has installed the first prototype unit (5 kW) in a spare tire well, says staff scientist Jeffry W. Stevenson (left).

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Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society

Cover Story
Creative chemistry, biology, plus powerful instruments and computers propel Pacific Northwest National Laboratory into proteomics era

Chemistry And Biosciences Are Priorities At PNNL

The Hanford Connection

Biodetection Enabling Analyte Delivery System

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

Spiders, Fireflies, And Microbes

The Virtual Lung

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[C&EN, Mar. 6, 2000]

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