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New nanostructured catalytic Anodes for Solid Oxide fuel cells using hydrocarbon and Oxyhydrocarbon fuels


Fuel Cells are receiving an enormous amount of commercial and research attention because of their potential to: increase the efficiency with which we use natural energy resources; form an important component of the hydrogen economy; and eventually assist in attaining an environmentally sustainable energy infrastructure.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) offer additional advantages of fuel flexibility and generation of excess heat, which can be used in combined heat and power (CHP) applications. SOFCs typically attain energy efficiencies of 55-60% and of up to 80% when operating in CHP mode. The energy efficiency of a typical internal combustion engine is around 25%.

This project will aim to develop new catalytic anode nanostructures aimed at allowing direct use of hydrocarbons and oxyhydrocarbons in SOFCs, so avoiding the efficiency losses and cost implications of a pre-reforming reactor in which hydrocarbons are converted to hydrogen, which is then used to fuel the SOFC.

These fuels may initially be fossil fuels but the longer-term aim of the project is to obtain catalysts, which enable the use of biofuels - and even of waste-derived fuels - in SOFCs.

Anode catalysts must be resistant to deactivation, for example through carbon build-up, must have high surface are as, for good gas-solid reaction kinetics, and excellent ionic and electronic conduction paths to the electrolyte and current collector, respectively.

These demands may be met by novel catalytic anodes. These will be synthesised and tested, first for their chemisorption and catalytic properties and then the most promising materials will be evaluated in terms of their electrochemical performance in simple fuel cell systems.

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