High Performance Metal-Supported SOFC System for Range Extension of Commercial Aviation

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Project Term:
03/15/2021 - 03/14/2023

Critical Need:

ARPA-E seeks to mitigate the growing environmental burden associated with commercial air travel at minimum economic cost. The REEACH objective is to develop a disruptive energy storage and power generation (ESPG) system to convert the chemical energy contained in energy-dense carbon neutral liquid fuels (CNLFs) into electric power for aircraft propulsion via electric powertrains and other key systems. Ultra-high conversion efficiency and high specific power and energy are critical for technical feasibility and commercial success of the ESPG systems due to CNLFs’ generally either lower specific energies or higher projected cost compared to incumbent fossil-based jet fuels.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette will design and optimize an energy storage and power generation (ESPG) system for aircraft propulsion. The proposed system will consist of optimally sized fuel-to-electric power conversion devices—metal-supported solid oxide fuel cells (MS-SOFCs) and turbogenerators—using carbon-neutral synfuel. Batteries will also be used to provide suitable electrical power to the aircraft through all phases of a flight. The design concept will ensure adequate propulsive thrust and system power for a future airplane configuration by optimizing the ESPG and component performance, especially the synfuel-powered MS-SOFC. During this Phase 1 effort, the team will select materials for all fuel cell components and interlayers and use innovative fabrication techniques to develop and test high-performance, ultra-low weight, and low-cost MS-SOFC stacks. They will also develop reforming catalysts for synfuel and biojet fuel. The team aims to demonstrate a 1-kW MS-SOFC prototype and design a 5 kW MS-SOFC prototype by the end of Phase 1.

Potential Impact:

Electrified aviation propulsion systems have the potential to achieve ultra-high fuel-to-propulsive power conversion efficiencies compared with existing turbofan and turboprop systems.


This program could ensure U.S. technology leadership in ultra-high efficiency aircraft propulsion systems capable of exploiting CNLFs.


A high specific power electrified propulsion system framework could enable net-zero carbon aviation by facilitating the transition to carbon neutral liquid fuels (CNLFs) while meeting all mission requirements.


The developed ESPG sub-system could provide the foundational technology for a new industry in ultra-high efficiency propulsion systems while improving the competitiveness of the existing air transportation industry by reducing fuel costs.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. David Tew
Project Contact:
Xiao-Dong Zhou
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


NexTech Materials, Ltd. dba Nexceris, LLC
Idaho National Laboratory

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