Research highlight

Cleaner, more-efficient electricity from carbon fuels

Nature Communications

June 22, 2011

A new anode for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) that could reduce the emissions and improve the efficiency of conversion of readily available fuels to electricity is described in Nature Communications this week.

SOFCs powered by gasifed coal are twice as efficient as current coal-fired power plants and can potentially reduce CO2 emissions by 50%. However, existing anodes used in SOFCs are prone to a build up of carbon (due to a process called coking), which reduces their performance. Meilin Liu and colleagues report a new barium oxide/nickel anode that efficiently oxidises fuel with minimum carbon build-up. Coking is prevented as the anode absorbs water that promotes carbon removal, making it possible to use carbon-containing fuels at relatively low temperatures.

Unlike previous efforts to make new anodes, which have identified materials that are either too expensive or incompatible owing to high complexity, the barium oxide/nickel anode is simple and contains no expensive rare elements.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms1359

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