Cooking Up Some Electricity: Solid Oxide Fuel Cells for the Developing World

May 1, 2014 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm
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Over 1.4 Billion people have limited or no access to electricity, and consequently pay significant portions of their income for kerosene lighting and retail mobile phone re-charging. Point Source Power has developed a unique Solid Oxide Fuel Cell product that allows individual end-users to generate small amounts of electricity in their own home as a by-product of cooking. The device is placed in the cooking coals, which heat the fuel cell to the required 650-800°C operating temperature. Charcoal is converted to CO and Hydrogen, which sustain electrochemical production of electricity. The user is thereby able to generate a few Wh of electricity during cooking, to be used for LED lighting and mobile phone charging in the home. The device relies on Metal-Supported solid oxide fuel cell technology developed at LBNL. This innovative cell architecture is extremely rugged, tolerant to rapid heat-cool cycling, and capable of withstanding significant levels of contaminants in the air and fuel stream. These advantages make it perfectly suited for the demanding and uncontrolled environment in an operating cookstove. Numerous challenges were overcome in the development of this consumer product. Specifically, thermal activation of catalysts, catalyst poisoning, electrochemical pathways to >100mW/cm2 and speciation of electrochemically active fuels will be discussed.

BIO: Mike Tucker, PhD, has worked on electrochemical devices for 16 years, and fuel cells for 11 years. He was the primary hands-on researcher in the development of Berkeley Lab's metal-supported solid oxide fuel cell technology from 2004-2010, and CTO of Point Source Power, the spin-out company commercializing this technology from 2010-2013. This effort was recognized with an R&D100 award in 2013. He is the co-inventor of 13 patents and patents pending related to metal-supported fuel cells, and author of the first comprehensive review of the field. He has served as Principle Investigator for DOE-SECA and NSF fuel cell projects.

Mike received a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering with honors from Brown University in 1997, graduating magna cum laude. In 2001 he received a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from U.C. Berkeley, focusing on the application of solid-state NMR and electrochemical techniques to diagnose capacity fade in lithium battery cathode materials.

Currently, Mike is a staff researcher at Berkeley Lab focusing on redox flow battery development for grid-scale energy storage and fundamental studies of transport in PEM fuel cells.

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