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Next Generation solid oxide fuel cell and electrolysis technology

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NewSOC (Next Generation solid oxide fuel cell and electrolysis technology)

Reporting period: 2021-07-01 to 2022-12-31

Solid oxide technologies (SOC: SOFC & SOE - fuel cells and electrolysis) have a significant potential to contribute to sustainable energy systems. Important advantages are:
• High efficiencies to convert a fuel (like hydrogen) into electricity (>60%) in fuel cell mode and electricity to fuel (like hydrogen) (~100%) in electrolysis mode
• Flexibility regarding used gasses and higher impurity tolerance as compared to low temperature fuel and electrolysis cells
• Possibility to operate the same unit in fuel cell and electrolysis modes (reversible SOC).
First commercial units are available on the market based on state-of-the-art (SoA) materials. In order to reach large-scale market breakthrough and economic competitiveness, SOCs need to become cheaper and reach longer lifetimes.
The NewSOC project addresses those challenges by proposing twelve concepts to improve state-of-the-art SOCs. These concepts include improvement of performance and durability under realistic conditions and reduction of manufacturing costs aiming at a competitive next generation technology. The concepts cover the following areas: (i) structural optimisation and innovative architectures based on SoA materials, (ii) alternative materials, which allow for overcoming inherent challenges of SoA, (iii) innovative manufacturing to reduce critical raw materials and to reduce the environmental footprint at improved performance & lifetime.

The EU has the long-term goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% to 95% compared to 1990 levels by 2050. This is only possible by introducing more shares of renewable energy sources in the energy systems, such as wind, solar, and (waste) biomass. With a high degree of energy produced by fluctuating sources such as wind and solar, the energy system will inevitably require technologies that produce electricity in times of lack and store electricity in periods of excess electricity supply from renewable sources. Furthermore, the heavy transport sector and industry will need to transform from fossil based to renewable fuels.
Solid oxide technologies (SOC: SOFC & SOE) are key enabling technologies for allowing the transformation of the energy systems from fossil based fuels to renewables in order to reach sustainable development goals. SOCs are an efficient link between sectors: power, gas/fuel, heat. SOC can therefore emerge as key players in the energy transition and in sustainable energy systems in many concepts, such as
• fuel/gas to power and heat at small to large scale,
• energy storage through power to hydrogen/fuel,
• utilisation and upgrading of biogas,
• balancing of intermittent electricity from renewable sources through load following and reversible operation, and
• central and decentral solutions for electricity and heat production.

The overall NewSOC objectives are:
25% Increase of the applicable electrolysis current at degradation rates below 1%/1000 h
25% Reduction of the area specific resistance
25% Increase of cycling stability for reversible operation, thermal and load cycling
25% Reduction of cell manufacturing costs, and
25% Reduction of toxic organics or materials during manufacture.
The NewSOC project will validate the new cells & stacks at the level of large cells with > 50 cm2 active area and short-stacks in close collaboration with industry, thereby moving the technology readiness level (TRL) from 2 to 4.
The NewSOC project will provide a path on how to increase the TRL level beyond the project period towards TRL of 6. The NewSOC project will evaluate the new SOC materials and fabrication processes with both a life cycle impact and cost assessment including interpretation through the eco-efficiency framework.
The NewSOC project successfully navigated through the challenging conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, where experimental facilities were closed for several weeks in the participating countries and physical meetings were impossible.
NewSOC reached important milestones proposed for the current reporting period:
- 25% Improved cell regarding electrochemical performance developed
- Cell with improved carbon tolerance
- Cell with improved redox stability
- 25% Reduction of toxic organics or materials during manufacture
The 12 concepts proposed in NewSOC have been matched with industry interests, evaluated for matureness and relevance, and have been integrated into industrial cell & stack platforms for experimental validation at relevant scale. This process is still in progress. It is noteworthy that all participating industrial partners have demonstrated a considerable openness to receive new developments.
NewSOC project partners actively spread the gained knowledge and results to different audiences, for example towards the scientific community with so far 30 conference contributions and 9 scientific articles. The NewSOC project met large interest from the larger public and industry when presented as poster and with folders during the Industrial Hannover Fair, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Exhibition and during outreach activities targeting the young generation (for example few hundred high school students during the National Science Festivals in Denmark). Other channels to the general public were linkedIn and the NewSOC homepage.
The impact of a successful NewSOC project relates to achieving targets from the EU wide short and medium term climate, energy and transport targets and from the Annual Work Plans of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking. The NewSOC project is on track to reaching the targets having significant impacts such as:
- The improvement of cells in terms of lower area specific resistance and increase of applicable current densities allows for the increase of gas production per given electricity input through electrolysis SOE and a cheaper technology.
- Increasing the durability at constant and dynamic conditions and under specific (for example load / temperature cycling) operating modes contributes to reach longer lifetimes and a cheaper technology.
- Reducing the manufacturing cost through new methods and reducing use of critical raw materials in manufacturing will improve the economic competitiveness of technology and decrease the environmental impact of production.
All improvements targeted by the NewSOC project will therefore increase the competitiveness, the economic and environmental sustainability of solid oxide technologies and will allow for establishment of sustainable energy systems to reach the EU-and worldwide climate goals.
NewSOC project logo
NewSOC 12 research concepts