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AU researcher works on interconnect for solid oxide fuel cells
3/20/12

Solid Cell of Rochester and Alfred University (AU) will be collaborating on a state- funded project to improve solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC).

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is funding the work, which will include development of ceramic interconnects, innovative ceramic circuits, for the SOFC.

Having completed a ceramic interconnect proof-of-concept research project during the summer of 2011, Olivia Graeve, associate professor of materials science in the Kazuo Inamori School of Engineering at Alfred University, is heading up the research project.

Solid Cell came "to AU because of our internationally recognized expertise in ceramic technology," said Matthew Hall, director of the New York State Center for Advanced Ceramic Technology (CACT) at AU. The CACT facilitates industrial-academic collaborations.

Graeve and her team will receive $70,000 from Solid Cell to work on ceramic interconnects for solid oxide fuel cells, The state funding will be matched by $14,000 from the CACT, according Hall. This will be a one-year project with one graduate student.

Fueled by hydrogen, solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC’s) are potentially an alternative method for generating electricity. The ceramic solid-state stack is composed of an anode and cathode, both sandwiching an electrolyte. The interconnect completes the electrical circuit within the SOFC, said Hall.

"The interconnect is usually a [metallic] alloy," Hall said. "However, it is susceptible to degradation because solid oxide fuel cells run at higher temperatures in a chemically aggressive environment." SOFC’s typically operate at 800° C, although scientists are trying to drive down the operating temperature.

Unlike metals and their alloys, ceramics are much more durable at high temperatures and in chemically caustic environments. Because of their high operating and temperatures and exotic materials compositions, SOFC’s create such caustic environments, according to Hall.

"Ceramics can possibly solve these [interconnect] issues and improve the long-term reliability of these devices," he said.