NASA and DOE lab team on fuel cell research

December 17, 2003

RICHLAND, Wash. -- The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and NASA's Glenn Research Center have agreed to collaborate in solving one of the toughest technical challenges to the development of advanced solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). The two research organizations have signed a Space Act Agreement to team in the development of sealing technologies for the stacks of solid oxide fuel cells.

SOFC stacks consist of a group of thin ceramic cells separated by gas seals between which electricity is generated through a combustion-free electrochemical process. PNNL Fuel Cell Development Director Prabhakar Singh explained, "The gas separation seals used between the individual cells prevent fuels and oxidants from intermixing. Robust seal materials and engineered architectures are essential to ensure the long term stable operation of SOFCs."

"Our objective is to develop composite materials and designs that will improve the strength and fracture toughness of composite glass and glass-ceramic-based seals," said Ajay Misra, chief of the NASA Glenn Ceramics Branch. "The seals must stand up to the extremes of pressure, temperature and other environmental conditions that occur during extended operation."

"The arrangement complements PNNL's work in glass seals and NASA's expertise in glass and glass-ceramic composites," Singh said. "While each organization will continue to maintain its own research program, participants will jointly identify, prioritize, develop and test new fuel cell seal technologies."

PNNL provides technical leadership for the DOE's Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance, a collaborative effort by industry, academia and other research organizations to develop and commercialize an SOFC power generation system within the next 10 years. The system is intended to be modular and capable of using a variety of liquid and gaseous fuels.

NASA is investigating solid oxide fuel cell technology to meet the need for high-efficiency, low emission power capabilities for aviation and space applications.
Located in Cleveland, Ohio, the Glenn Research Center leads NASA research and development in aeropropulsion. The center also plays a significant role in NASA's promotion of economic growth and national security through safe, superior and environmentally compatible U.S. civil and military aircraft propulsion systems

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a DOE Office of Science facility that is gaining new knowledge through fundamental research and providing science-based solutions to some of the nation's most pressing challenges in national security, energy and environmental quality. The laboratory employs more than 3,800 scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff, and has an annual budget of nearly $600 million. Battelle, based in Columbus, Ohio, has operated PNNL since its inception in 1965 for the federal government.

DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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