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

Colorado School of Mines

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

Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$3,081,864
Location: 
Golden, CO
Project Term: 
09/07/2018 to 09/06/2020
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
In 2015, two-thirds of U.S. electricity was derived from fossil fuels. This electricity was then distributed through the electrical grid, ultimately netting a delivered efficiency of 34%. Ultra-high electrical efficiency (>70%) distributed generation systems, such as those that combine fuel cells and engines, can lower the cost and environmental burdens of providing this electricity. These hybrid systems convert natural gas or renewable fuels into electricity at substantially higher efficiencies and lower emissions than traditional systems. At the component and system levels, however, these hybrid technologies face challenges including the low-loss integration of fuel cells with engine-based waste recovery cycles, capital cost, and fuel cell stack durability.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
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.
Potential Impact: 
The INTEGRATE program is developing a new class of distributed and ultra-efficient (>70%) fuel to electric power conversion systems for commercial and industrial customers.
Security: 
Distributed electrical generation systems can produce highly reliable electric power supplies.
Environment: 
High electric efficiency and decreased reliance on combustion would result in lower greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions.
Economy: 
These systems' high efficiency and avoidance of electric grid transmission and distribution costs offer the potential for lower cost electric power.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. David Tew
Project Contact: 
Prof. Robert Braun
Partners
Kohler Co.
Colorado State University
Air Squared Inc.
Release Date: 
7/26/2017