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ARPA-E award recipient advancing solid oxide fuel cells

Mon, 06/30/2014 - 9:27am

SiEnergy Systems, an Allied Minds company commercializing low temperature thin film solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology from Harvard University, has announced that it has been selected for $2.65 million in funding from Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). SiEnergy’s technology is one of only 13 projects funded by ARPA-E through the REBELS program.

“The projects funded through the REBELS program, including SiEnergy, are an excellent example of how ARPA-E is developing innovative technology options to transform and modernize America’s evolving electric grid”

SiEnergy Systems is seeking to develop a thin film SOFC for the mobile and small power generation markets in order to reduce fuel cell cost, and allow fast start-up and load following capability by responding rapidly to changes in power demand. The targeted end result is a practical, affordable, and energy efficient system that is able to use convenient fuels and significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

SiEnergy Systems is a subsidiary of Boston-based Allied Minds, a technology innovation company that funds, manages, and builds companies based on market-creating technologies developed at renowned U.S. universities and federal research institutions.

“In fuel cell mode, the system will create electricity directly from hydrocarbon fuels,” says Vincent Chun, Vice President of Allied Minds and General Manager of SiEnergy Systems. “In battery mode, the system is designed to provide storage capability that offers faster response to changes in power demand compared to a standard fuel cell. Additionally, the technology will operate at relatively low target temperatures of 300-500 C, which makes the system much more durable than existing high-temperature fuel cells.”

SiEnergy’s technology uses inexpensive silicon-based technology and nanometer scale electrolytes to create SOFCs that operate at a commercially desirable temperature and are scalable to meet various power requirements. Thin film SOFC is a promising technology that provides solutions to cost and reliability challenges of fuel cells today.

Fuel cells—or devices that directly convert the chemical energy of a fuel source into electrical energy—are considered optimal for distributed power generation systems, which generate power close to where it is used. Distributed generation systems offer an alternative to the large, centralized power generation facilities or power plants that are currently commonplace. While centralized power generation systems have an excellent economy of scale, they often require long transmission distances between supply and distribution points, leading to efficiency losses throughout the grid. Additionally, it is difficult for centralized power systems to balance power generation with the grid demand in the presence of intermittent renewable power sources. Fuel cells provide efficient power generation capability as well as improve grid stability through local balancing of the power supply and demand.

“The projects funded through the REBELS program, including SiEnergy, are an excellent example of how ARPA-E is developing innovative technology options to transform and modernize America’s evolving electric grid,” said ARPA-E Acting Director Dr. Cheryl Martin. “Distributed generation technologies like these could fundamentally change the way America generates and stores energy.”

Source: SiEnergy Systems

 
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