June 30, 2008

Ceramic promises cooler fuel cells

A candidate material for a solid oxide fuel cell promises a new generation of the devices that can operate at lower temperatures. This should reduce the fuel cells' cost and shorten their long startup times.

The heart of solid oxide fuel cells is a ceramic material that conducts oxygen ions from the air and combines them with with hydrogen from a fuel to generate electricity. The fuel cells usually work at 800 to 1000C. The new material, a mixture of lanthanum, strontium, gallium and oxygen, conducts oxygen ions at temperatures as low as 600C.

Solid oxide fuel cells are very efficient, converting over 50% of the fuel's chemical energy to electricity. Their large sizes and long startup times limit their use to powering buildings, factories, campuses and small cities.

Research paper:
Interstitial Oxide Ion Conductivity in the Layered Tetrahedral Network Melilite Structure
Nature Materials, June 2008

Researcher's homepage:
Matthew J. Rosseinsky

Related stories and briefs:
Cooler material boosts fuel cells
Alloy lowers fuel-cell cost

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