PI: Stephen W. Sofie, Montana State University
Awarded for 2009-2013

The objectives of this proposed research activity are to demonstrate the performance and technology benefit of unitized regenerative solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC). Research efforts will involve two parallel activities; the synthesis, fabrication, characterization of cell components and geometries optimized for aerospace operation as well as the design and buildup of a unitized, short stack regenerative demonstration platform to underscore the capabilities of SOFC technologies for Lunar and Mars mission application.

Utilizing high performance and mechanically robust symmetric cell geometries, the development of single phase ceramic anodes will be employed to mitigate the redox instability, high temperature coarsening, and sensitivity to logistic fuel contaminants of traditional two phase nickel anode cermets. This effort will address the anode materials criteria for demanding regenerative operational mode to meet NASAs aerospace based performance and durability requirements. Oxide ceramic compounds will be synthesized to evaluate the electro-catalytic activity, mixed conductivity, interfacial phenomenon, and contaminant resistance of these materials with respect to a nickel anode baseline. Dopant studies will be performed to optimize properties in an iterative fashion to select the most promising materials. Ceramic anodes will be fabricated in single cells and tested for power performance, high temperature electrolysis, and reversible efficiency.

The fabrication of a short stack regenerative demonstration platform will be developed to evaluate these SOFC systems/materials developments at an elevated TRL, and to validate SOFC performance, technological maturity, efficiency, and stack reliability in contrast to polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) system data. The characteristics of SOFC technology favor the "unitized" system in which power operation and electrolysis modes utilize the same stack as opposed to discrete stacks, typically required for PEMFC regenerative operation. The regenerative platform will be designed and built at MSU upon existing stack testing facilities coupled with aerospace testing methods derived from NASA GRCs regenerative SOFC evaluation.