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Report suggests acceleration in fuel cell, electrolyzer development

Recently, new partnerships and research into 3D-printed structural components for solid oxide fuel cells demonstrate new approaches in fuel cell technology.

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composite fuel cells

Source | IDTechEx

According to recently released reports from research and consultancy firm IDTechEx (Cambridge, U.K.), new joint ventures and research developments in composites-enhanced fuel cells and electrolysis cells is accelerating.

Fuel cells able to convert hydrogen into electricity, IDTechEx reports, play an important role in the transition towards zero-emissions energy production, and electrolysis cells can convert water into hydrogen by using electricity. Electrolyzers are considered one of the most promising solutions for storage of electricity that is generated intermittently by renewable power sources, as well as a smart alternative for decarbonizing energy-intensive sectors, IDTechEx says. However, ceramic-based, multilayer solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) and solid oxide electrolysis cells (SOEC) have high efficiency, IDTechEx says, but their ceramic nature typically increases their manufacturing costs while limiting complex shapes and enhancement. 

Solid oxide cells (SOC) are ceramic-based multilayer electrochemical cells consisting of a gas-tight oxide-ionic conductor electrolyte with electrodes in both sides. The best SOC materials, IDTechEx reports, are yttria-stabilized zirconia for electrolyte, YSZ-based composites as electrodes (lanthanum strontium manganite) for the oxygen electrode and Ni-YSZ for the fuel electrode.

According to IDTechEx, South Korea has increased efforts recently to accelerate development of hydrogen fuel cells. In September 2019, SK Engineering & Construction, a unit of South Korea’s SK Group (Seoul), signed an SOFC joint venture with Bloom Energy (Seoul, with main headquarters in San Jose, Calif., U.S.). In addition, Doosan Corp. (Seoul) partnered with Ceres Power (Horsham, U.K.) to develop SOFCs for commercial buildings. 

In addition, new research published this year, IDTechEx reports, has worked to demonstrate the viability of 3D-printed functional materials for SOFCs and SOECs, in order to improve performance while reducing fabrication and operation costs. Researchers from the Energy Research Institute of Catalonia (IREC, Barecelona, Spain) published in the Royal Chemistry Society’s Journal of Materials Chemistry A the results of a study to demonstrate that 3D-printed structrual elements for SOFCs and SOECs can introduce complex shapes, more robust structures and novel functionalities into the energy sector. IDTechEx sasy this is a first step toward fabrication of new-generation solid oxide cells with enhanced performance and three-dimensional shapes.

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