A New Structural Family for Superior Oxide Ion Conductors

Physical Sciences : Mechanical

Available for licensing

Inventors

  • John Goodenough, Ph.D. , Mechanical Engineering
  • Preetam Singh , University of Texas at Austin

Background/unmet need

Fuel cells provide electric power via chemical reactions between continuously supplied fuel and oxygen. Most fuel cells use hydrogen/oxygen reactions to generate electricity. Fuel cells that are able to use hydrocarbon fuels, instead of merely hydrogen gas, are of great interest for a variety of reasons, including their ability to rely on existing energy supply chains and their flexibility in fuel sources.

One common type of fuel cell able to use a wide variety of hydrocarbon fuels is the solid oxide fuel cell. However, due to the materials available for use in these fuel cells, they operate today at very high temperatures, typically 800 °C or higher.

Therefore there is a need for solid oxide fuel cells able to operate effectively at lower
temperatures as well as solid oxide fuel cells containing alternative components to allow further flexibility in raw materials used to produce such cells, manufacturing processes, and ultimate uses of fuel cells.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed new structural families for superior oxide ion conductors which shows promise when used as the electrolyte in a fuel cell or a regenerative or reverse fuel cell, as an oxygen sensor, or as an oxygen separation membrane.

The material can be in the form of a single-phase polycrystalline solid having a monoclinic crystal structure. The material may have an oxide-ion conductivity (σo) greater than or equal to 0.01 S/cm at a temperature of at least 500°C.

This material may be formed into a planar or tubular membrane, such as a tube that separates the fuel flow from the oxygen flow in a fuel cell.

Benefits/Advantages

    The invention allows several industrial and energy related electrochemical processes to be performed at lower temperature.  

Features

  • May be used as the electrolyte in a fuel cell or a regenerative or reverse fuel cell
  • May be used as an intermediate solid fuel cell operating around 500°C
  • May be used as an oxygen sensor
  • May be used as an oxygen separation membrane
  • May be used as a catalyst for oxidation of an olefin

Market potential/applications

Electrical energy generated with a fuel cell may be used to supplement the electrical energy fed to the grid by a power plant, to charge batteries that power consumer portable devices, or to power generators and automobiles directly. This creates demand for this technology in various application areas including military, electronic devices, transportation, traffic signaling, security, and remote monitoring.

In addition, falling prices for fuel cells and advanced research and development activities are adding growth to the fuel cell market, as the global fuel cell shipments are expected to raise at a CAGR of more than 15% during 2013-2017.

Development Stage

Proof of concept

IP Status

  • 1 foreign patent application filed
  • 1 U.S. patent issued: 9,093,692