Fuel cells will undoubtedly find widespread use in this new millennium in the conversion of chemical to electrical energy, as they offer very high efficiencies and have unique scalability in electricity generation applications. The solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) offers certain advantages over lower temperature fuel cells, notably its ability to utilise CO as a fuel rather than being poisoned and the availability of high-grade exhaust heat for combined heat and power or combined cycle gas turbine applications. Although cost is clearly a key barrier to widespread SOFC implementation, perhaps the most important technical barriers currently being addressed relate to the electrodes, particularly the fuel electrode or anode. In terms of mitigating global warming, the ability of the SOFC to utilise commonly available fuels at high efficiency, promises an effective and early reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and hence is one of the lead new technologies to improve the environment.
In the longer term the ability to utilise waste derived fuels such as biogas will be of critical importance.
The electrochemical reactions in fuel cells and electrolysers occur at the interface between electrodes and electrolyte. Here we look at attempts to nanoengineer this interface to enhance performance and also probe the changes in local structure that relate to activation or ageing during operation.
 “Switching on electrocatalytic activity in solid oxide cells”, J-H. Myung, D. Neagu, D.N. Miller & J.T.S. Irvine, Nature, 2016, doi:10.1038/nature19090
 “Evolution of the electrochemical interface in high-temperature fuel cells and electrolysers”. JTS. Irvine, D. Neagu, MC. Verbraeken, C. Chatzichristodoulou, C. Graves, MB. Mogensen. Nat. Energy. 2016, 1, 15014