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INTEGRATE

Innovative Natural-gas Technologies for Efficiency Gain in Reliable and Affordable Thermochemical Electricity-generation

The projects that comprise ARPA-E's INTEGRATE (Innovative Natural-gas Technologies for Efficiency Gain in Reliable and Affordable Thermochemical Electricity-generation) program will develop natural gas fueled, distributed, ultra-high efficiency electrical generation systems. The program will focus on hybrid system designs that integrate a fuel cell with a heat or reactive engine, such as a gas turbine or a reciprocating internal combustion engine. The INTEGRATE program encourages the development and demonstration of integrated hybrid systems and/or enabling component technologies. Project teams will seek to develop devices that can generate electricity at greater than 70% efficiency while keeping system costs competitive at commercial scales of 100kW or greater. Projects will take advantage of the synergies between fuel cells and more traditional combustion engines. For example, some of the fuel that passes through a fuel cell will remain "unreacted." This leftover fuel can be used by an engine to produce combustion products that produce additional power--improving overall system efficiency. Because the engine can be used simultaneously to generate power and act as balance-of-plant for the fuel cell, eliminating the need for some components, system cost savings could be significant.

Colorado School of Mines

High Efficiency, Low Cost & Robust Hybrid SOFC/IC Engine Power Generator

The Colorado School of Mines will develop a hybrid power generation system that leverages a pressurized, intermediate-temperature solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) stack and an advanced low-energy-content fuel internal combustion (IC) engine. The custom-designed, turbocharged IC engine will use the exhaust from the anode side of the SOFC as fuel and directly drive a specialized compressor-expander that supplies pressurized air to the fuel cell. High capital costs and poor durability have presented significant barriers to the widespread commercial adoption of SOFC technology. In part, these challenges have been associated with SOFC high operating temperatures of 750-1000°C (1382-1832°F). This team will use a robust, metal-supported SOFC (600°C or 1112°F) technology that will provide greater durability, better heat management, and superior sealing over standard ceramic-supported SOFC designs. The modified diesel IC engine in a hybrid system provides a low-cost, controllable solution to use the remaining chemical energy in the fuel cell exhaust. The system will use the hot air and exhaust gases it produces to keep components running at the proper temperatures to maximize overall efficiency. The team will also develop supporting equipment, including a specialized compressor-expander and power inverter. The new system has the potential to enable highly-efficient, cost-effective distributed power generation.

FuelCell Energy, Inc.

Adaptive SOFC for Ultra High Efficiency Power Systems

FuelCell Energy will develop an adaptive, pressurized solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) for use in hybrid power systems. Hybridized power generation systems, combining energy efficient SOFCs with a microturbine or internal combustion (IC) engine, offer a path to high efficiency distributed generation from abundant natural gas. Proof-of-concept systems have shown the potential of this hybrid approach, but component optimization is necessary to increase system efficiencies and reduce costs. Existing SOFC stacks are relatively expensive components, and improving their efficiency and robustness would enhance the overall commercial viability of these systems. This team's approach is to focus directly on improving SOFCs with hybrid integration as their end goal. Their adaptive cells will withstand the necessary pressure fluctuations, and the compact stack design aims to make the best use of heat transfer while minimizing leakage losses and maintaining high performance. The team will take a modular approach, building 2-5kW stacks that can be grouped together in a pressurized container. These modules can be added or removed as needed to suit the scale of the hybrid system, enabling a range of power applications. The baseline cell technology will also be modified through advanced materials that extend the useful life of stack and mitigate the harmful effects of contaminants on fuel cell performance. If successful, these adaptive, efficient, robust SOFCs could provide a path to greater than 70% efficiency when integrated into a hybrid system.

NexTech Materials, Ltd. dba Nexceris, LLC

Advanced Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Stack for Hybrid Power Systems

Nexceris, LLC will develop a compact, ultra-high efficiency solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) stack tailored for hybrid power systems. Hybridized power generation systems, combining energy efficient SOFCs with a microturbine or internal combustion (IC) engine, offer a path to high efficiency distributed generation from abundant natural gas. Proof-of-concept systems have shown the potential of this hybrid approach, but component optimization is necessary to increase system efficiencies and reduce costs. Existing SOFC stacks are relatively expensive and improving their efficiency and robustness would enhance the overall commercial viability of these systems. Nexceris' SOFC stack design includes a patented high performance planar cell design and a novel anode current collector that that provides structural support to each cell during pressurized operation, helps define the flow of fuel gas through the stack, and improves control over the reaction of natural gas in the cell, and a sealing approach that facilitates pressurized stack operation. If successful, this stack design will result in increased performance and durability at reduced cost. The 10-kW-scale cell stack building blocks will be housed within a hermetically sealed "hotbox" to reduce drastic changes in temperature and pressure during operation. These design features would allow for seamless integration with a turbine or combustion engine to maximize the overall efficiency of a hybrid system.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

A Natural-gas based High Efficiency Combined Thermo-chemical Affordable Reactor (NECTAR)

Saint-Gobain Ceramics and Plastics, Inc.

Super High-efficiency Integrated Fuel-cell and Turbo-machinery - SHIFT

Saint-Gobain will combine a pressurized all-ceramic solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) stack with a custom-designed screw compressor and expander to yield a highly efficient SOFC and Brayton cycle hybrid system. In this configuration, the SOFC stack generates most of the system's electric power. The expander converts a portion of the stack's waste exergy to additional electric power. Saint-Gobain and its partners will integrate three enabling technologies: Saint-Gobain's robust all-ceramic SOFC stack, Brayton Energy LLC's rotary screw engine (compressor and expander), and Precision Combustion Inc.'s (PCI) SOFC-reformer integrated hotbox. Due to its monolithic nature, the all-ceramic stack enables high pressure, efficient operation, and long-term durability that may provide a 20-year life without stack replacement. Saint-Gobain will develop low-cost ceramic forming techniques to link to its multi-cell co-sintering process. The screw components developed in this program would eliminate the risk of pressure surges during operation. This is a common problem with conventional gas turbines, which can potentially damage SOFC stacks. Finally, PCI's unique hotbox will allow pressurized operation of the SOFC stack and maximize heat transfer and waste heat capture to minimize energy losses. This project will potentially introduce a new distributed, high durability, and enhanced lifetime electricity production system capable of 70% efficiency.

SUNY University at Stony Brook

Hybrid Electrochemistry and Advanced Combustion for High-Efficiency Distributed Power (HE-ACED)

University of Wisconsin

An Integrated High Pressure SOFC and Premixed Compression Ignition Engine System

Washington State University

De-Coupled Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Gas Turbine Hybrid (dFC-GT)

Washington State University will develop a hybrid power system using a high-pressure, high-temperature fuel cell stack and gas turbine. The project will examine the benefits of a decoupled design, in which the fuel cell stack and gas turbine components are not directly connected within the hybrid system. The team's other primary innovation is the integration of a membrane to concentrate oxygen from air supplied by the turbine before feeding it into the fuel cell, which avoids pressurizing the entire air feed stream, improving performance and boosting efficiency. The pressurized solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) and a micro gas turbine (mGT) are physically separated by the ceramic oxygen transport membrane (OTM), which prevents the SOFC from being exposed to damaging pressure surges from the mGT. In this way, the decoupled system allows the individual components to contribute synergistically to the high-efficiency, cost-effective hybrid power generation system. By combining the efficiency of pressurized SOFC operation using natural gas and pure oxygen fuel with a microturbine in a decoupled configuration, the team hopes to achieve 75% fuel-to-electric efficiency.
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