While high hurdles stand before the cheap manufacturing of fuel cells, engineers and scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago and nearby Argonne National Laboratory are starting a tightly focused research project to develop solid oxide fuel cells that may meet this goal.
"Solid oxide fuel cells offer the potential to scale down to very small dimensions," said Christos Takoudis, professor of bio- and chemical engineering at UIC, and lead investigator in a new $475,000 National Science Foundation grant to investigate ways to synthesize and characterize this type of fuel cell in a temperature range lower than what most currently operate.
SOFCs oxidize fuels by electrochemical conversion to create electricity, using a solid oxide as the electrolyte between an anode and cathode circuit. While their small size and solid state are attractive attributes, the higher operating temperatures that SOFCs' need -- currently as high as 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit -- are a big drawback.
Takoudis and his colleagues hope they can lower the operating temperatures to what is considered the "intermediate range" of between 1,100 and 1,500 degrees.
They also want to see if such fuel cells can be created at the "nano" level, measuring thickness in mere single-digit layers of atoms.
"We're trying to come up with new materials and processes to make these fuel cells very efficient at lower temperatures. Material and design demands for higher temperatures are much more severe and require additional precautionary measures," Takoudis said.
A key research focus is how well the main elements -- the anode, electrolyte and cathode -- work at interface junctions and what contamination problems exist, if any.
"As dimensions shrink, it becomes even more important, because the actual contact area is much greater with respect to the total volume than it is in bigger systems," Takoudis said.
UIC researchers will grow the materials to test as potential solid anodes, cathodes and electrolytes for their SOFCs, and then use Takoudis' lab and Argonne's Advanced Photon Source for a close probe of the materials as they generate electricity.
Jeffrey Miller, leader of Argonne's heterogeneous catalysis group, will oversee that part of the work. Other project investigators working with Takoudis include UIC engineering adjunct professors Gregory Jursich and Alan Zdunek, who will study the process of atomic layer and chemical vapor deposition methods to create fuel cell components and ways to maximize efficiency. Robert Klie, UIC associate professor of physics, will supervise electron microscopy study and analysis of material interfaces.
Creation of microscopic-sized, cooler-operating, highly efficient solid oxide fuel cells may open up a world of possible applications that offer the twin benefits of being ecologically benign and cheap.
"Today's cost of fuel cells is prohibitive," Takoudis said. "Our group wants to push the technology envelope to help make the costs reasonable and create a power source that does little harm to the environment."
Paul Francuch | Newswise Science News
Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics
23.03.2017 | North Carolina State University
TU Graz researchers show that enzyme function inhibits battery ageing
21.03.2017 | Technische Universität Graz
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy