DOE Rolls Out Funding for Turbines, Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is kicking off September with a couple of significant funding announcements. The department announced September 6 the selection of 16 projects to receive a combined total of more than $10 million in funding to advance solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology. That announcement was followed up September 7 with the selection of nine projects to receive a combined total of $5.4 million under the University Turbine Systems Research (UTSR) program.

SOFC Award

The 16 projects selected under the SOFC award “will address the technical issues facing the cost and reliability of SOFC technology and conduct field testing of an integrated prototype system project intended to validate the solutions to those issues,” according to a DOE press release.

The projects fall under two categories, prototype system testing and core technology development.

Only one project was selected under the prototype system testing topic area. Receiving total funding of $7.1 million, LG Fuel Cell Systems will deploy a 250-kW integrated fuel cell system in North Canton, Ohio. The system will run on natural gas and will be connected directed to the grid. “The prototype SOFC power system will incorporate current technologies and operate under a range of environmental conditions for at least 5,000 hours to assess progress of system durability, performance, and operating cost,” the release says.

The 15 projects selected under the second topic area each received roughly $300,000 in DOE funding for $350,000-$385,000 in total funding. The projects receiving funding under topic area 2, as listed in the DOE release, are:

  • Boston University will research ways to synthesize and deploy core-shell heterostructures as SOFC cathodes.
  • Boston University will evaluate chemical and electrochemical cathode self-cleaning and performance recovery processes.
  • Case Western Reserve University will conduct research to understand how selected operational parameters affect the performance of SOFCs, with a focus on operational parameters affecting cathode performance.
  • Georgia Tech will focus on the development of highly oxidation-tolerant anodes.
  • Michigan State University will try to demonstrate the best-performing, most-stable, intermediate-temperature SOFC cathodes using optimized atomic layer deposition (ALD) overcoats to stabilize cathode performance.
  • Mohawk Innovative Technology will try to develop an oil-free anode recycle blower capable of using uncooled SOFC exhaust gas directly at temperatures up to 700 °C.
  • Montana State University will develop strategies that use secondary phase materials added to traditional nickel-based cermet electrodes to enhance SOFC anode durability and performance.
  • Redox Power Systems will develop critical high-throughput, in-line metrology techniques for evaluating protective coatings for SOFCs.
  • Saint-Gobain Research & Development Center will develop and evaluate novel forming methods such as 3D printing and gel casting for producing ceramic SOFC components.
  • Tennessee Technological University will work to develop and validate low-cost, highly durable, spinel-based materials synthesized with a multi-component alloy precursor for SOFC cathode-side contact applications.
  • The University of Connecticut will develop low-cost alloy anodes for distributed internal reforming of methane and other hydrocarbon fuels to increase the fuel-flexibility, reliability, and endurance of SOFCs.
  • The University of Pennsylvania will evaluate the conditions required to achieve reproducible atomic layer deposition films on SOFC cathodes.
  • The University of Pittsburgh will develop an integrated fiber-optic sensor technology to perform real-time, high-resolution measurements to monitor operations and structural changes of SOFCs.
  • The University of South Carolina will develop and evaluate novel, lost-cost, durable cathode materials to support SOFC commercialization.
  • West Virginia University will modify the internal surfaces of porous composite cathodes used in commercial SOFCs using atomic layer deposition.

University Turbine Systems Research

Nine university research programs will receive funding under the National Energy Technology Laboratory’s (NETL) University Turbine Systems Research program. “The newly selected projects will focus on the development of technologies that will accelerate turbine performance, efficiency, and emissions reduction beyond the current-state-of-the-art and reduce the risk to market for novel and advanced turbine-based power generation,” the release explains.

The selected projects fall into six topic areas:

  • Two projects will research low-NOx combustion technology development for “air-breathing” advanced turbines. Embry–Riddle Aeronautical will receive $600,000 in DOE funding to evaluate axial-staged combustor designs using fuel-flexible, low-emission turbine combustion. The Georgia Tech Research Corporation will receive $599,794 in DOE funding for a project focusing on experimentation and computational model development for large-diameter, multi-nozzle turbine combustors.
  • Two projects will research advanced cooling technology development for “air-breathing” advanced turbines. With $600,000 in DOE funding, The Pennsylvania State University will develop a computational 3-D model that can be implemented within current turbine manufacturing design practices. Also receiving $600,000 in DOE funding, The University of Pittsburgh will develop an innovative approach to improve the level of thermal protection for hot-section components, such as turbine airfoils, in current and future gas turbines.
  • Two projects were also selected under topic area three, “Advanced Materials Technology Development for ‘Air-Breathing’ Advanced Turbines.” Clemson University will design an integrated thermal barrier system for use in gas turbines with $599,995 in DOE funding, and Ohio State University will focus on the design and development of novel superalloys with improved creep strength under high operating temperatures with $600,000 in DOE funding.

Only one project was selected under topic area 4, which addresses big data analytics. With $600,000 in DOE funding, the Pennsylvania State University will use two industry-class gas turbine component test rigs to generate first-of-its-kind data for critical gas turbine faults with varying severity levels.

Topic area 5, advanced instrumentations, also has only one award selection. The University of Central Florida has been awarded $600,000 in DOE funding to research and develop advanced monitoring techniques to ensure the integrity and durability of thermal barrier coatings used on turbine components.

In topic area 6, which address pressure gain combustion, The Regents of the University of Michigan will receive $600,000 to advance the current understanding of injector dynamics and evaluate the effects of multi-component fuels (syngas and hydrocarbon blends) on rotating detonation engine operation.

Abby L. Harvey is a POWER reporter