Adaptive SOFC for Ultra High Efficiency Power Systems

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Project Term:
08/15/2018 - 03/05/2024

Critical Need:

In our carbon-neutral future, energy-dense fuels will continue to be economically critical energy storage media in many stationary and transportation applications. To preserve our climate, however, we must rapidly transition to fuels synthesized from carbon-neutral resources rather than extracted from fossil reserves. These fuels are likely to be more expensive than their fossil counterparts. It is also unclear which of many current carbon-neutral options (e.g., hydrogen, ammonia, synthetic aviation fuel) will be adopted at scale. Given this uncertainty and cost risk, fuel flexibility and ultra-high conversion efficiency will be especially critical energy conversion system performance metrics. Solid oxide fuel cell and engine integrated systems offer the potential for ultra-high efficiency (>70%) and fuel flexibility at an attractive cost (<$1/W). Additional development is required to address a number of outstanding challenges including achieving the low-loss integration of fuel cells with engine-based waste recovery cycles and operation of fuel cell stacks at elevated pressure with acceptable life.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

FuelCell Energy will develop technology for pressurized solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) stack modules for use in hybrid power systems. The Compact Stack Architecture (CSA) platform will operate at a high pressure, enabling its integration with a wide range of small-to-mid-sized power cycles, including gas turbines and piston engines. Stack design will incorporate features such as internal reforming (producing hydrogen from natural gas), extending the fuel cell’s use to higher pressure values, and adding robustness to tolerate system-imposed pressure differentials. Current studies show that the featured SOFC stack technology integrated with a gas turbine in a hybrid system will enable efficiency exceeding 70% at a cost competitive with existing commercially available equipment (<1,800 $/kW installed). Brayton Energy will provide turbomachinery expertise and UC Irvine will develop a dynamic control system. Phase II of this project will culminate in the design, fabrication, and operation of a nominally rated 100-kW hybrid system comprised of CSA stack module integrated with a commercially available microturbine to validate that the project targeted efficiency and cost are achievable.

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.


Distributed electrical generation systems can produce highly reliable and resilient electric power supplies.


High electric efficiency and decreased reliance on combustion would result in lower greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions. These systems also provide the opportunity for a faster and more economically viable transition to a carbon neutral power generation sector.


These systems’ high efficiency and avoidance of electric grid transmission and distribution costs offer the potential for lower cost electric power.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. David Tew
Project Contact:
Dr. Hossein Ghezel-Ayagh
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