Korean researchers have developed a state-of-the-art technology that enables commercialization of protonic ceramic fuel cells (PCFC), which exhibit the highest conductivity at 400 to 600 Celsius degrees. When tested in a measuring system that is similar to the environment in which the fuel cells are used, the technology generated the world-class output and is expected to increase the utilization of renewable energy sources, like solar and wind power.
On August 28, KIST disclosed that its research team led by Dr. Lee Jong-ho and Ji Ho-il of high temperature energy materials research center and a team led by Professor Shin Dong-wook at Hanyang University developed a technology that maximizes the function and economic efficiency of PCFCs and enables productions at a commercial level. A fuel cell is a device that transforms chemical energy into electric energy, and it is considered as the future energy element due to its high generation efficiency and no pollutant emission. Ceramic fuel cells do not use the metal catalysts but have higher generation efficiency than many other fuel cells.
However, ceramic fuel cells, which operate at 800 Celsius degrees, have a durability problem of high installation and operation cost, and polymer-based fuel cells that operate at 200 degrees require a metal catalyst and high purity hydrogen. As an alternative for these fuel cells, PCFC has been receiving attention for its high electric conductivity at a moderate temperature between 400 to 600 degrees, but its commercialization has been delayed due to the technical difficulty of manufacturing thin film electrolytes-electrodes complexes and the degradation of physical properties.
The research team uncovered a principle of how electrolytes are elaborated during the heat treatment of the thin film electrolytes-electrodes complex structure and developed a technology that can significantly reduce the processing temperature. By using a large-scale screen-printing technology used in mass production and a microwave processing which enables low heat treatment for a short time, the team successfully secured economic feasibility as well. As a result, the 5x5㎠-sized large-scale PCFC composed of 5㎛ (1 micrometer = 1 millionth of 1m)-thick electrolytes presented 20.8 W at 600 degrees, which is the ten times the higher output than before.
This research was published in “Nature Energy.”