Fergus awarded NSF grant for work with clean fuel cells

Published: Aug 10, 2006 12:53:53 PM
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Jeffrey Fergus, associate professor in materials engineering, recently received an individual investigator grant from the division of materials research for the National Science Foundation. His project, 'The Effect of Hydrogen and Water on the Oxidation of Chromia-Forming Alloys,' investigates metallic interconnect materials for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), such as those used in power plants and auxillary power units. This is a three year grant totaling approximately $225,000.

Fergus' research stems from recent interest in the development of clean, efficient fuel cells. To date, work in this area has focused primarily on polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells. However these cells are intolerant of typical impurities, such as carbon monoxide, commonly found in hydrogen fuel.

In contrast, SOFCs work at higher temperatures, making them more tolerant to impurities. The higher operating temperature, however, can also cause materials degradation, the understanding of which is the focus of Fergus' work. One promising application of durable, fuel-tolerant SOFCs is to provide auxiliary power to the sleeper cabin in trucks. Such power systems would more cleanly and efficiently use available diesel fuel and eliminate the need for running the diesel engine overnight.

"It is certainly a great honor to receive an award from Division of Materials Research of NSF," says Fergus. "I look forward to contributing to the development of cleaner, more efficient energy sources."