Scientists create efficient fuel cell powered by solid carbon

January 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Green

Researchers at  Idaho National Laboratory ( INL ) have created a new fuel cell technology that is powered by solid carbon . This technology could make the generation of electrical power through carbon-based fuels, such as coal and biomass, to be done in a more efficient, cleaner manner. The most recent variation on direct carbon fuel cell (DCFC) designs was described in a study published this week in the journal Advanced Materials . According to INL materials engineer Dong Ding, the latest DCFC technology runs at lower temperatures and produces higher maximum power densities than previous designs. Similarly, the latest solid carbon fuel cell tech from INL, which produces a much cleaner byproduct, would make it easier for carbon capture technology to be implemented. While hydrogen fuel cells have made news lately for their promise to produce clean, efficient energy, DCFCs offers the advantage of being able to utilize readily-available fuel sources, such as coal, organic waste, and biomass . “You can skip the energy-intensive step of producing hydrogen,” Ding told Phys.org . However, there are disadvantages in traditional DCFC designs. They have historically required high temperatures to function, which in turn requires expensive materials that are able to withstand such heat . Related: World’s first commercial carbon-sucking plant goes live in Zurich The most recent DCFC design from INL addresses these problems. To deal with the necessary high temperatures, the researchers developed an electrolyte with doped cerium oxide and carbonate, highly conductive materials that can perform under lower temperatures. To increase the efficiency of the fuel cell, the researchers created a 3-D ceramic textile anode that is woven like cloth and maximizes the surface area available for carbon fuel chemical reactions. The design also incorporates a molten carbonate-carbon composite fuel, which allows for better flow. “At the operating temperature, that composite is fluidlike,” Ding said. “It can easily flow into the interface.” Because DCFCs produce pure carbon dioxide without other pollutants, Ding believes it would be much easier to include carbon capture technology into the design. While a shift to carbon-free renewable energy is necessary to mitigate climate change , this new DCFC technology may ease the transition. Via Phys.org Images via Idaho National Laboratory

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Scientists create efficient fuel cell powered by solid carbon

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