Efficient Fuel Cells

Published: Oct 12, 2009 1:00:00 AM
Media Contact: Sally Credille, src0007@auburn.edu, 334-844-3447

Jeffrey Fergus, associate professor of materials engineering, has received $420,000 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 IPEM) 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.

Auburn University is partnering with Pacific Northwest national Laboratory to improve the performance of SOFCs, which are crucial for use in a wide variety of fuels, including hydrogen, methane, diesel, gasified coal and renewable biofuels, to supplement the use of oil.