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SOFC's in General

HELP Applications


1. Micro-combined heat-power (m-CHP) and domestic energy storage

The properties of SOFC's in general make it very useful for domestic micro-combined heat-power (or m-CHP).
Firstly, we see integration of small SOFC's in central heating systems for private homes as an interesting option:
  • High fuel efficiency - positive effect on energy efficiency norms
  • Very useful exhaust heat (900-1000 °C)
  • Natural gas would be an ideal feed
  • No complex reformer steps are necessary by using novel internal reforming materials

Because of the fact that, in addition to the electrical efficiency, the surplus heat can be used efficiently. This results in unique high total fuel efficiencies approaching 90-100% (thermal plus electrical efficiency).

In this way even with fossil fuels high environmental standards are achieved, including reduction of CO2 emissions. Additionally, an efficient, decentralised individual and independent way of heat and electricity generation is obtained.

Integration of micro-combined heat-power of an SOFC with future concepts for heat- and electricity generation in homes are considered ideal. An example could be the generation of hydrogen by solar or wind power during the day, which is later converted into electrical power for consumption in the evening.

An SOFC of the HELP type is considered very much suited for application in private homes connected to a gas grid. This because of its relatively robust nature and safe triple gas separation of the gas flows (fuel and air).

Maintenance of this type of fuel cell is also relatively attractive by the presence of the loosely stacked elements. Individual elements can be replaced and recycled, instead of replacing whole sinter-bonded cell stacks of the conventional designs!

Economy is reached by the use of normal production techniques. Please refer to the example calculation of the pay-back time of such a small fuel cell.

Future home energy storage systems with iron-based hydrogen storage also offers a high-potential domestic application.

2. Decentralised local electrical power generation - i.e. telecom equipment

For applications were no reliable power from the grid is available and a continuous electrical demand exists a compact SOFC system can be deployed having the following distinct advantages:
  • Power uptime - reliability
  • Flexible in fuels - no fuel processor
  • Clean - no combustion.
  • Quiet - no moving parts
  • Compact - by its high efficiency

Interesting possibilities exist in markets where currently diesel generators or batteries are deployed e.g. telecom equipment, transmitter stations for cellular phones, off-grid locations etc.

3. Electrical power generation for transportation - range extenders for Electric Vehicles

Compared to the currently popular SPFC/PEM type of fuel cell this SOFC offers:
  • More than double life-time expectancy
  • Direct (bio)fuel feed is possible without fuel processor steps currently used for SPFC/PEM
    thus a more straight forward and less complex system
  • Higher total system fuel efficiency ('well -to-wheel' efficiency)
  • More flexibility in fuel types
  • No platinum dependability
  • Very stabile solid electrolyte (no drying or degradation)
  • Better perspective on economics and low investment costs.

A disadvantage seems the fact that an SOFC should be kept at high temperatures, while transporation use usually only occurs during a short period of the day. However, a calculation study has learned that application of commercially available and economic insulation materials makes the high gain in fuel efficiency much greater than the small heat loss during stand-by of the fuel cell. This is even more valid for means of transportation which are intensively used, like delivery cars, trucks, trains and ships.

This could open the way for new possibilities of extremely fuel efficient and environmental friendly application of SOFC's in means of transportation using conventional fuels.

The SOFC Hollow Electrodes Loose Plates design is by its robustness and higher degree of reliability an interesting option.

The status of SOFC-HELP

The status of development can be summarised as follows:
  1. Patents were filed and granted in all industrialised countries
  2. Proof of principle has been demonstrated at University of Delft using conventional materials
  3. Sufficiently high power output was proven by calculations
  4. The efficiency of loose contacts has experimentally been proven feasible at all operational temperatures
  5. A manufacturer was found for the first production series at full cell dimensions

Currently, already the following parties are interested to join this development:
  1. Liberty Global, a world player in cable and telecom
  2. A European company active in green gas for automotive
  3. A major European developer and seller of central heating appliances
  4. A multinational company and producer of electrical equipment.

We see that the above type of companies are able to join the development and have access to existing distribution channels, which will largely increase the chance for success.

We are looking for parties who would like to join the development of this completely novel fuel cell type for direct commercial application.

Ideal would be companies who see direct application in their current or future product range and/or companies having (mass) production facilities for similar ceramic materials.

The inventors can be contacted at the following address.


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