ORNL has a broad range of activities that focus on the development and commercialization of materials, components, and subsystems for polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) for transportation applications and solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) for stationary power applications. ORNL’s hydrogen and fuel cell research spans the entire spectrum of cutting-edge applied science from hydrogen infrastructure development and fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV) on-board storage technology to novel PEFC electrocatalyst development and macroeconomic modeling of FCEV commercialization. Fuel cell research at ORNL is a shining example of the execution of multidisciplinary science and is paving the way for commercial adoption of zero-emission vehicles and the next generation of decentralized, environmentally-friendly power plants.
For example, advanced microscopic characterization of the PEFC electrocatalytic “triple-phase interface” allows for designing composite electrode layers with maximum Pt utilization and electrochemical surface area (ECSA) for the cathode Oxygen Reduction Reaction (ORR). Low-cost, carbon-fiber precursor processing consisting of the melt-spun PAN and PAN-MA approaches is on track to meet short-term commercial targets for composite on-board hydrogen storage tanks. Low-cost modeling, joining and sealing of dissimilar materials, and multilayer tank design validation has accelerated the commercial acceptance of underground concrete-steel composite storage vessels for hydrogen refueling stations. ORNL has expertise in SOFCs ranging from ceramic oxide powder synthesis and electrode fabrication to high-temperature testing of cells and stacks. Novel SOFC glass-ceramic seal architectures are currently being developed, and anode and cathode layer processing capability via tape casting, screen printing, and lamination has been utilized, contributing to next-generation SOFC design.
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