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Accelerated Stress Testing (AST) protocols for Solid Oxide Cells (SOC)


The project should address:

  • Identification of degradation mechanisms and quantification of degradation on aged stack components (in particular electrodes, interconnects, sealings) coming from existing demonstration projects;
  • Development of advanced in situ and ex situ characterization techniques and accelerated stress test (AST) protocols, compatible to existing test station hardware, with the identification of transfer functions of the component degradation measured in an AST to real-world behaviour of that component.
  • Proposal and validation of AST from materials to stack components and optionally stack level, the latter potentially more application specific when relevant. The developed AST protocols should follow where possible the formats of protocols developed in the SOCTESQA project, in order to be integrated with the EU protocol harmonization undertaken by JRC (see JRC activities);
  • Development of models related to degradation mechanisms, implementing models describing degradation mechanisms into performance models. Evaluation of the capability of performance/degradation models to confirm and quantify the accelerating impact by adapting some operating or load profiles should be considered. The modelling tools should lead to improved in-operando prognostics and estimation of remaining useful lifetime of the SOC stack in a relevant operational environment;

A key requisite for the project should be the certainty of acquisition of at least 6 aged samples of a given stack component (cell, interconnect, sealant) of at least 3 different stacks (ideally from at least two suppliers) and of the corresponding user profiles.
Projects should focus on a SOC technology (SOFC, SOE, R-SOC). Therefore, the relevant actors should be included in the consortium and/or letters of intent of the materials providers should be provided. Availability of comparable non-aged materials or stack components should be foreseen, to ensure relevant comparison between “real-world” ageing and ageing caused by selected AST.
International collaboration with member countries of the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy (IPHE) is specifically encouraged for this topic.
Laboratories taking part in the proposal should have a record of quality assurance in SOFC/SOEC testing to guarantee reliability and repeatability of the test results.
Any safety-related event that may occur during execution of the project shall be reported to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) dedicated mailbox, which manages the European hydrogen safety reference database, HIAD.
Test activities should collaborate and use the protocols developed by the JRC Harmonisation Roadmap (see section 3.2.B ""Collaboration with JRC – Rolling Plan 2018""), in order to benchmark performance of components and allow for comparison across different projects.

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution of EUR 3 million per project would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
A maximum of 1 project may be funded under this topic.
Expected duration: 3 years.

This approach addresses key aspects of interest for the industry related to durability, particularly regarding the stack components as cells, interconnects or seals. Targeting the understanding of realistic failure modes and the development of ASTs that address those failure modes is a valuable contribution in order to shorten the development time of new materials to be integrated in the next system generation. While different ASTs are already available for PEMFC, this topic is much less advanced in SOCs.
Degradation rates currently reported in SOFCs are below 1%/1000h, and they are a bit higher in SOE mode (a few %/1000h). Performing very long tests (several years) are generally not compatible with the availabilities of test stations in laboratories. In addition, the validation of stack components over several years before their integration in a real system is neither compatible with times requested by fuel cell manufacturers for the market deployment of their product.
Therefore, accelerated stress testing is of great benefit. First accelerated testing has been done in SOFC and to a much less extent in SOE, but an extensive work is needed for correlation or transfer function to “Real World” data. As of today, a growing number of FCH 2 JU demonstration projects involving SOFCs are ongoing and expected in Europe, such as for example ENE.FIELD and PACE including SOFC systems, while SOE demonstration projects don’t exist yet but are expected in a near future (such as already in this work-plan). Some projects like ENDURANCE improved the understanding of natural and event-related degradation processes of SOFC materials, thanks to systematic post-mortem investigation that identified critical components for stack lifetime. Multiscale models were set up and refined and specific samples and experimental sessions were designed to statistically validate suggested improvements. A similar coupled experimental/modelling approach has been developed and validated in SOPHIA project, highlighting some phenomena having more extensive effects in SOE.
Finally, some monitoring and diagnostic tools are developed by GENIUS, DESIGN and DIAMOND projects, providing feedback regarding evolution of the performance of the system in correlation with user profile. The availability of quantitative information on stack and its components lifetime as function of system operations, as well as analytical tools to forecast their durability is a valuable asset for further actions towards e.g. optimal maintenance plans.
In order to retrieve most benefits from these past, on-going or starting projects it is important to link these evolutions to materials evolution with quantitative data for various usages.

ASTs will allow faster evaluation of new materials and provide standardized sets of tests to benchmark materials and/or stack components, and will accelerate the development to meet cost (7€/kg H2 produced in 2020 and between 4500 and 7500 €/kW for commercial mid-size SOFCs in 2020) and durability targets (2 years in SOEC and 8-20 years for mid-size stationary SOFCs).
This is based on the following elements:

  • Enhanced understanding of physical correlation between user profile and degradation mechanisms on at least three stack components (e.g. cell, interconnect, sealing) and its validation with models related to degradation mechanisms;
  • Define testing methods and evaluation criterion / criteria to allow faster evaluation than current AST of new materials and standardised tests to benchmark materials on the selected stack components with a quantified correlation between AST results and lifetime in a user profile (hydrogen production, CHP), where results should show at least similar ranking between materials or stack components with a good correlation between quantitative degradation features (to be selected such as performances degradation rates, properties losses, microstructure modifications);
  • Validation of the methodology (i.e. comparison and correlation between “real-world” behaviour and AST caused degradation) should be achieved through a plan for coordination and agreement within the European SOC community, involving the JRC, to confirm the robustness of the AST procedures identified;
  • Provide recommendations about improvements of monitoring and tracking systems for future deployments in order to capitalise on return of experience;
  • Final document, including AST test methods, evaluation criteria & validation methodology, with reference to existing global SoA AST, explaining differences and additional valuable information;
  • Recommendations for international standardisation of Accelerated Stress Testings within IEC TC105 which should where appropriate lead to a New Working Item Proposal (NWIP) or feed into ongoing standardization processes;

Type of action: Research and Innovation Action
The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter 3.3 and in the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018– 2020 which apply mutatis mutandis.