Published: Sep 23, 2008 5:33:33 PM
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Jeffrey Fergus, associate professor of materials engineering in Auburn University's Department of Mechanical Engineering, has received $419,952 from the Department of Energy to study materials used to improve the performance of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). With additional funding over the next two years, the grant will total almost $450,000.
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. 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.
"As our country works to end its dependence on foreign oil, research into alternative fuels becomes more critical," said Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "Auburn University is partnering with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to study materials that will improve the performance of SOFCs, which are crucial as we attempt to use a wide variety of fuels, including hydrogen, methane, diesel, gasified coal and renewable biofuels to supplement the use of oil. This energy research conducted at Auburn reinforces the University's stellar research capabilities and reputation."