With computation, researchers identify promising solid oxide fuel cell materials

phys.org | 2/22/2018 | Staff
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Using advanced computational methods, University of Wisconsin-Madison materials scientists have discovered new materials that could bring widespread commercial use of solid oxide fuel cells closer to reality.

A solid oxide fuel cell is essentially an engine that provides an alternative way to burn fossil fuels or hydrogen to generate power. These fuel cells burn their fuel electrochemically instead of by combustion, and are more efficient than any practical combustion engine.

Energy - Technology - Oxide - Fuel - Cells

As an alternative energy technology, solid oxide fuel cells are a versatile, highly efficient power source that could play a vital role in the future of energy. Solid oxide fuel cells could be used in a variety of applications, from serving as a power supply for buildings to increasing fuel efficiency in vehicles.

However, solid oxide fuel cells are more costly than conventional energy technologies, and that has limited their adoption.

Cathode - Catalysts - Operation - Stability - Costs

"Better cathode catalysts can allow lower-temperature operation, which can increase stability and reduce costs, potentially allowing you to take your building off the electrical grid and instead power it with a solid oxide fuel cell running on natural gas," says Dane Morgan, a materials science and engineering professor at UW-Madison. "If we can get to that point with solid oxide fuel cells, the infrastructure of power to many buildings in the country could change, and it would be a very big transformation to a more decentralized power infrastructure."

Led by Morgan and Ryan Jacobs, a staff scientist in Morgan's research group, a team of UW-Madison engineers has harnessed quantum mechanics-based computational techniques to search for promising new candidate materials that could enable solid oxide fuel cells to operate at lower temperatures, with higher efficiency and longer lifetimes.

Screening - Candidate - Materials - Class - Compounds

Their computational screening of more than 2,000 candidate materials from a broad class of compounds called perovskites yielded a list of 52 potential new cathode materials for solid...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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