Protonic ceramic fuel cells are highly durable, fuel flexible | 5/10/2018 | Staff
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Protonic ceramic fuel cells could one day be used to power off-the-grid cabins in remote locations, backup generators during natural disasters and more.

In the first long-term study of its kind, researchers from Colorado School of Mines have shown that the relatively new class of fuel cells exhibit both the long-term durability and fuel flexibility needed to become a viable commercial alternative to other existing fuel cell technologies.

Researchers - Fuels - Hydrogen - Methane - Gas

In all, researchers tested 11 different fuels – hydrogen, methane, domestic natural gas (with and without hydrogen sulfide), propane, n-butane, i-butane, iso-octane, methanol, ethanol and ammonia – demonstrating excellent performance and exceptional durability across all fuel types over thousands of hours of operation. Their findings, "Highly durable, coking and sulfur tolerant, fuel-flexible protonic ceramic fuel cells," were published today by the journal Nature.

"Protonic ceramic fuel cells (PCFCs) are very fuel flexible. We can feed them all sorts of different real-world fuels and make electricity," said Ryan O'Hayre, professor of metallurgical and materials engineering and co-lead author of the paper with Mines Ph.D. candidate Chuancheng Duan. "That's very different from other fuel cells that only work on hydrogen. Some high-temperature solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) will also run on other fuels but they're very finicky – if you feed them fuels other than hydrogen, they are susceptible to contamination and degradation, and their performance drops rapidly with time. Our fuel cells didn't face those problems with long-term testing."

One - O'Hayre - Road - Tank - Propane

"No one can get hydrogen delivered to their door very easily," O'Hayre added. "But you can go down the road to the 7-Eleven and pick up a tank of propane."

Protonic ceramics are a relative newcomer in the fuel cell world, the material having only been discovered in Japan in 1980. It wasn't until the late 1980s and early 1990s, though, that the technology began to gain acceptance, and...
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