Ceramic Fuel Cell (CFC), or in their probably first definition – Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC), is a high temperature device that converts the chemical energy of fuel directly into electricity and heat. There are no intermediates in this process. Therefore, CFC as a fuel cell system can offer very high electrical efficiencies (twice as high as traditional converters like heat machines). They offer perspectives to decreasing fuel consumption for stationary (local combined heat and power, CHP), mobile (auxiliary power units, APU, or hybrid vehicles), or portable (battery replacer) applications, as well as reducing CO2, NOx and other pollutant emissions due to both much higher efficiency of energy conversion and comparatively low operating temperature. No moving parts are involved in the energy conversion process, which improves reliability and increases safety in the application.
However, some improvements are necessary to increase their reliability and make them cheaper.
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CFC is a high temperature device for very long operation, which should work for many years. After the European developers have exceeded the requirements of the US Department of Energy of about 40,000 working hours (~4.5 years) of the SOFC operation life, the European Horizon 2020 program has begun to request the operational time to exceed 25 years.
The Laboratory for Ceramic Fuel Cells at Ukrainian Frantcevych Institute for Problems of Materials Science performed the research to find if the structure of CFC might be optimized for purposes of both maximal efficiency and prolonged use.
Their results undoubtedly indicated that this is possible. For this goal, they proposed a concept of the “positive degradation” in order to transform the degradation phenomena taking place in fuel cells into an instrument for directional influence of degradation processes in unused CFC materials to enhance and optimize the CFC structure.
They designed novel zirconia nano-powders and synthesized them starting from abundant Ukrainian Zirconia natural resources. New nano-powder was produced at the Vil’nohirs’k Mining and Metallurgical Plant (VMMP), Ukraine. Physical tests of this new material showed better results, comparing to existing materials on the market. Therefore, it demonstrated a promising alternative to the commercial SOFC electrolyte materials.
For more details, check the article “The Structural Optimization of Ceramic Fuel Cells” by Oleksandr Vasylyev, Mykola Brychevskyi, Yehor Brodnikovskyi
and “Structural, Mechanical and Electrochemical Properties of Ceria Doped Scandia Stabilized Zirconia” by O.D. Vasylyev, A.L. Smirnova, M.M. Brychevskyi, I.M. Brodnikovskyi, S.O. Firstov, V.G. Vereschak, G.Ya. Akimov, Yu.O. Komysa, J.T.S. Irvine, C.-D. Savaniu, V.A. Sadykov, I. Kosacki