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Multi-scale computational fluid dynamics modelling and optimisation of the state-of-the-art solid oxide fuel cells

Final Report Summary - CFDSOFC (Multi-scale computational fluid dynamics modelling and optimisation of the state-of-the-art solid oxide fuel cells)

CFDSOFC project was a one-year Marie Curie action that funded a one-year fellowship (from September 2013 to August 2014, inclusive) of Dr. Ali Naci Celik from Abant Izzet Baysal University, Bolu, Turkey at the Department of Energy Conversion and Storage of Technical University of Denmark (DTU Energy Conversion). Dr. Celik has been working with the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) modelling/characterization team on the multi-scale computational fluid dynamics modelling and optimisation of the state-of-the-art SOFCs. The research project has been an integral part of the ongoing SOFC research at DTU Energy Conversion.
Fuel cell systems are still a fairly immature technology in early phases of development due to several technical several technical challenges still not overcome including matching required lifetime and cost targets set by competing technology. There is not one single dominant design and only a limited number of semi-commercial systems are available. The creation of strategic niche markets and search for early market niches are of vital importance for the further development SOFCs. It is expected that mass production will start when niche markets are established and a dominant design is found, and then production cost will significantly decrease due to the economy of numbers. However, there are several challenges to overcome before mass production and widespread application is in place, such as power density augmentation, operating condition control and fuel cell configuration optimization.
DTU Energy Conversion is formed by world-class competencies from different divisions including the Fuel Cells and Solid State Chemistry Division, an international leader in SOFCs and electrolysis cells. The research on fuel cells in DTU (Risø National Laboratory then) started in the 1980s.
The general objective of the CFDSOFC project was that Dr. Celik should assist the DTU Energy Conversion SOFC team to perform the multi-scale thermo-fluid and electrochemical modelling of the state-of-the-art planar SOFCs using numerical modelling approaches [i.e. a combination of finite element method (FEM) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD)] in three-dimensions with the aim to utilise the modelling in optimizing rationalizing experimental data and optimizing design. He would, in the process, receive training and enhance his experience in the multidisciplinary set of skills, including SOFC development and manufacture, stack development, testing, and also administrative/technical management of the EU projects and in turn apply at his university in Turkey, ideally through joint projects with DTU Energy Conversion and other international partners.
The project objectives have in general been achieved. Key highlights are:
• A model has been formulated based on a relevant geometrical representation of the state-of-the-art SOFCs. The electrochemical reactions have been described using “source terms” in the governing equations for heat, mass, momentum, ion and electron transport. Applying suitable boundary conditions, these conservation equations have then been solved with a multi-physics software that has been used throughout the project. In particular, through solving the fluid dynamics equations using CFD, the pressure and velocity distributions have been determined through the region of interest on the cell level, which can later be extended and generalized to stack level.
• The solutions of the heat transfer equations have been achieved to establish the temperature distribution within the cell. Based on the temperature and flow distributions at all points within the physical boundaries, the solutions of the electrochemical equations have been achieved to produce the current density values at certain specific voltage levels.
• COMSOL Multiphysics have been used to solve the equations in 3D, using its CFD, heat transfer and electrochemistry modules. COMSOL Multiphysics is a Finite Element Method (FEM) based modelling package for the simulation of many physical processes that can be described using ordinary or partial differential equations. It has been shown that FEM is an effective method in modelling complex geometries and boundary conditions and that it can successfully be used to model the state-of-the-art SOFCs developed in DTU.
• Dr. Celik’s theoretical expertise related to CFD and FEM has been systematized and reinforced.
• Regarding the practical aspects of CFDSOFC project, Dr. Celik has received hands-on training in the testing of SOFC cells/stack, electrical/electronic characterization of SOFC cells/stack, and impedance modelling and experimental characterization on cell level.

• Having developed a validated model, the next step will include the optimisation/design variation work, which will aim to improve the cell/stack design through parametric investigation of important system variables/characteristics.

• Dr. Celik has received training in technical and administrative aspects of Horizon 2020 programme through attendance at a seminar organized at DTU Risø Campus by an EU project proposal consultant. He has also been involved in practical activities related to training in research commercialization and early stage considerations regarding patenting of developed technologies and commercial negotiations regarding venture capital support.
• The project has included work with an overseas partner of DTU Energy Conversion, namely a research team from the Lund University, Lund, Sweden on the multi-scale computational fluid dynamics modelling of SOFCs. Interactions with these partners have enhanced Dr. Celik’s experience in international co-operation and provided opportunities for future joint work of his Turkish team with the international players.
While the strongest emphasis in the project was placed on the benefits to the visiting Marie Curie fellow, it was essential that the host institution also had clear positive outcomes from its participation in the project. This was indeed the case as complementary profiles of researchers involved and increased scientific and technical interactions between them and with third parties led to enhanced research/technical output and know-how of all participants in the project. It is expected that partnership established during CFDSOFC will continue after project completion leading to long-term research co-operation and joint participation in the national and EU programmes in the future. For example, potential joint project proposals between Abant Izzet Baysal University and DTU Energy Conversion could be submitted to the Turkish National Research Funding Agency (TUBITAK) in the near future.

With the achievement of the above scientific, training and additional competencies, the expertise and knowledge gained by the applicant in fluid dynamics, CFD, heat transfer and electrochemistry have already provided him with specialized skills that are expected to significantly improve his career development. Also, having developed multi- and inter-disciplinary expertise through this proposed project, the applicant will be able to work independently on SOFCs and also in the related fields such as hydrogen production. A genuine collaboration between the host country and Turkey has been initiated with this project and it will be developed into a long-term academic and scientific relationship in the years to come.
The project addressing one of the key technologies enabling the use of hydrogen in electric production will contribute to the renewable integration in the EU electricity generation mix. Therefore, a scientific project incorporating the very important elements of sustainable energy will have paramount effect both from scientific and communal perspectives. The scientific outcome of this project will contribute to the accumulation of knowledge on the subject researched and thus will contribute to the advance of science significantly. This will in turn increase and strengthen the attractiveness of Europe for researchers and increase European competitiveness in the field.