Towards the Next-Generation of Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Systems

Thursday, 30 July 2015: 15:20
Lomond Auditorium (Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre)
V. Singh, P. H. Wagner (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)), Z. Wuillemin (HTceramix SA), S. Diethelm, J. Schiffmann, and J. Van herle (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL))
Use of intermediate temperature solid oxide fuel cells for power generation is attractive, due to the highest achievable electrical efficiencies in the low power generation range. Nonetheless, there still exists a potential to improve the industry benchmark SOFC systems, which use natural gas or biogas as fuel and consider steam methane reforming, with external steam supply, for syngas production and usage in the stack.

Anode off-gas recirculation using a blower is the add-on to our next-generation SOFC system. Since the recirculating feed contains steam produced in the stack, no external steam supply is needed for reforming. This eliminates the use of expensive water de-ionisation sets. Further, it allows for high overall fuel utilization at low diffusion losses. System performance is evaluated through multi-objective optimization criteria, i.e. maximization of electrical efficiency and cogeneration efficiency. Evolutionary algorithms compare the different design alternatives, i.e. co-flow or counter-flow stack operation with hot or cold recirculation. The system flowsheet which includes models for BOP components and an inhouse experimentally validated SOFC stack model, is solved using the commercial software Belsim VALI.

The design variables identified for this system are 1. oxygen to carbon ratio before the external reformer 2. external to internal methane reforming fraction 3. reducing fuel species molar fraction at anode outlet 4. air-fuel equivalent ratio in the burner and 5. blower inlet temperature. Successive generations of population are obtained by reproduction and mutation of the existing population. Following the ‘survival of the fittest’ rule, the iteration is stopped when a non-dominated solution set represented by a Pareto-optimal front is obtained. The results obtained (eg. figure 1) suggest that improvements to the best SOFC systems, in terms of net electrical efficiency, are achievable.