Solid oxide fuel cell SOFC

This is a cell suitable only for static application, taking several hours to reach its operating temperature. It is a high temperature cell, running at between 800 and 1000°C. Its great virtue is that it can run on a range of fuels including natural gas and methanol which can be reformed within the cell. Its high operating temperature also enables it to break down impurities. Its high temperature also removes the need for noble metal catalysts such as platinum.

It potentially has a wide range of power outputs, from 2 to 1000 kW.

In contrast to PEMFCs the electrolyte conducts oxygen ions rather than hydrogen ions which move from the cathode to the anode. The

electrolyte is a ceramic which becomes conductive to oxygen ions at 800°C. SOFCs are often structured in a tubular rather than a planar form (as in the PEMFC) to reduce the chance of failure of the seals due to high temperature expansion. Air (oxygen) flows through a central tube whilst fuel flows round the outside of the structure (Figure 13.3).

According to David Hart of Imperial College 'Solid oxide fuel cells are expected to have the widest range of applications. Large units should be useful in industry for generating electricity and heat. Smaller units could be used in houses.

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