SOLID OXIDE FUEL CELLS
Nexceris has a deep heritage in Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) development and has established itself as a world leader in the field. We have considerable experience in producing SOFC materials, cell manufacturing, stack design & modeling and fabrication & testing of SOFC stacks. Because we are vertically integrated, we are able to tailor our SOFC stack technology to meet application-specific requirements.
Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Technology
SOFC technology offers many promising attributes, including low materials cost, high-efficiency, fuel flexibility, quiet operation and can be adapted for multiple power generation applications. There are numerous markets where SOFC technology could play a major role, such as military, distributed power generation (micro-grid), range extenders for electric vehicles, residential/industrial combined heat & power as well as power for data centers and remote sites.
The Nexceris Fuel Cell Business Unit currently is focusing on development of SOFC stack technology for military applications. We also are developing novel cell designs, internal reforming technology, high-power density and ultra-high efficiency stacks. We recently initiated work aimed at adapting our SOFC stack technology to solid oxide electrolysis and reversible SOFC application
Our SOFC History
Starting in the mid 1990s, the initial focus of Nexceris on SOFC materials and components led to the launch and growth of fuelcellmaterials in 2000. Nexceris engineers have applied their ceramic materials skills to the fabrication of all types of SOFCs – planar and tubular, anode-supported, electrolyte-supported, and inert-supported configurations. This experience enabled Nexceris to better understand technical issues being experienced by SOFC developers and to develop unique solutions to address these issues and to improve the quality and scope of fuelcellmaterials products, including the ChromLok™ and AlumiLok™ lines of corrosion-protective coatings.
Nexceris initiated its SOFC stack technology development work in 2006, following their development of novel electrolyte-supported planar cell designs (now patented) with enabling attributes. These cell designs feature a thin electrolyte membrane layer that enables high performance and a dense cell periphery that provides an optimum sealing surface. Nexceris has focused its SOFC stack development work on military applications where high power density, high efficiency, system simplicity and fuel flexibility are desired. A key Nexceris accomplishment was the development of anode technology with unprecedented tolerance to sulfur, which provides a path for SOFC operation on JP-8 fuels without desulfurization. Another important attribute of the Nexceris stack technology is the ability to operate at high single-pass fuel utilization – this greatly simplifies the system design.
Nexceris SOFC Applications
Examples of recent and ongoing Nexceris SOFC stack technology development include:
Power for Unmanned Aerial and Ground Vehicles
The U.S. military has significantly increased the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for a variety of functions, such as reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting/acquisition. It also has been using unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) for dismounted military operations providing transport for gear. Both platforms are being used for expanding the types of missions with a concomitant need for increased payloads, weight and power draws, which leads to reduced endurance. This drives the need for power-dense auxiliary power units (APU). To meet this need, Nexceris has been developing an Ultra-High Power Density (HPD) Stack for use in these applications. What separates our technology from the competition is our sulfur tolerant cell/stack formations that facilitate the use of logistic fuel such as JP-8 or JP-5.
Range Extenders for Electric Vehicles
Electric vehicles have been identified as the future for the military. These systems offer lower cost power sources, greater performance and quieter operations. Performance improvements come from the ability to eliminate the conversion loss associated with changing chemical energy to mechanical energy to drive the vehicle. For ground-based vehicles this means a single engine and independent motor for each wheel, which helps with weight distribution while also providing redundancy, helping to ensure the vehicles can operate even if one motor is lost. However, the operational range of systems will be limited by the amount and size of the batteries, which can provide a significant weight penalty as longer endurance missions are required. Hybridizing with an SOFC system can serve as an onboard charging unit to help extend the range of these systems. Nexceris’ HPD Stack can be tailored for the right balance between light-weight, increased efficiency and fuel flexibility for use in these applications. What separates our technology from the competition is our sulfur tolerant cell/stack formations, which enable the use of logistic fuel such as JP-8 or JP-5.
Soldier Portable Power
As the U.S. military’s communications systems continue to advance enabling situational awareness, connectivity, mission command and actionable intelligence, so does the power consumption demand for these systems. This also directly increases the weight of batteries that need to be carried – a physical burden on our dismounted Soldiers. This drives the need for developing lightweight efficient power systems, which can help lighten the load of our Troops. Additionally, emissions are also important to ensure the health and safety of our Soldiers. To help meet these needs, Nexceris’ HPD Stack can be modified to provide a combination of low weight and efficient operation. Another enabling attribute is the fuel flexibility our stack can offer. We can tailor our design for use in logistic fuel systems or for systems using hydrogen (from Alane) or other sources such as butane, propane or methane.
Power Generation for Air Independent Vehicles
Air independent vehicles include submarines, unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) and planetary landers. This unique application requires the vehicle/platform to carry both the oxidant (typically liquid oxygen as a substitute for air) and fuel supply on board. Because both reactants are carried as payload, high-efficiency operation is extremely important. Nexceris has been developing stacks capable of operating in pure oxygen at extremely high efficiencies. What separates us from the competition is our ability to tailor our HPD Stack for high-efficiency operation and our coatings that protect our metallic components from accelerated corrosion caused by the high-oxygen content environment.
Auxiliary Power Generation
Auxiliary power units (APU) are used in a wide variety of applications, including:
- Power for deicing equipment and sensor arrays on high altitude long endurance (HALE) UAVs
- Battery charging or hotel power after vehicles reach their destination
- Power for communications for command and control applications.
These systems typically require lightweight and high-efficiency operation. Nexceris’ SOFC Stack Design can be tailored for achieving increased efficiency and fuel flexibility for use in these applications. What separates our technology from the competition is our sulfur tolerant cell/stack formations which enable the use of logistic fuel such as JP-8 or JP-5.
Residential Power Generation
Another area being explored for solid oxide and other fuel cell technologies is residential power generation. Fuel cell systems installed in or outside residential dwellings can be used for primary or backup power, providing anywhere from less than 1 kW and up to 5 kW of power. These systems are small and quiet and can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, they can provide power as well as heating for air and/or water using a process called Combined Heat and Power (CHP). The most successful example of the use of fuel cells for residential applications is Japan’s Ene-Farm program, which had over 300,000 systems as of 2019.
We are excited to announce that we have added a line of proton conducting powders to our powder electrolyte materials catalog. Barium Zirconate materials have increased in popularity recently as researchers have been working to find new ways to operate at lower temperatures
The growth of electronics and new energy generation and storage technologies has increased demand for alternative materials that present greater supply-chain challenges.