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A Portable Generator Incorporating Mini-Tubular Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

Modern society has become reliant on battery powered electronic devices such as cell phones and laptop computers. The standard way of recharging these devices is by connecting to a reticulated electricity supply. In situations with no electricity supply some other recharging method is required. Such a possibility is a small, portable, generator based on fuel cell technology, specifically mini-tubular solid oxide fuel cells (MT-SOFC). MT-SOFCs have been developed since the 1990s but there is limited analysis, discussion or research on developing and constructing a portable generator based on MT-SOFC technology. Such a generator, running on a portable gas supply, requires combining the key aspects of cell performance, a heating and fuel reforming system, and cell manifolds. Cell design, fuel type, fuel flow rate, current-collection method and operating temperature all greatly affected MT-SOFCs performance. Segmenting the cathode significantly increased the power output. Maximum power density from an electrolyte supported MT-SOFC was 140 mW/cm2. The partial oxidation reactor (POR) developed provided the required heat to maintain the MT-SOFCs at an operating temperature suitable for generating electricity. The exhaust gas from the POR was a suitable fuel for MT-SOFCs, having sufficient carbon monoxide and hydrogen to generate electricity. Various manifold materials were evaluated including solid metal blocks and folded sheet metal. It was found that manifolds made from easily worked alumina fibre board decreased the thermal stresses and therefore the fracture rate of the MT-SOFCs. The final prototype developed comprised a partial oxidation reactor and MT-SOFCs mounted in alumina fibre board manifolds within a well-insulated enclosure, which could be run on LPG. Calculated efficiency of the final prototype was 4%. If all the carbon monoxide and hydrogen produced by the partial oxidation reactor were converted to electrical energy, efficiency would increase to 39%. Under ideal conditions, efficiency would be 78%. Efficiency of the prototype can be improved by increasing the fuel and oxygen utilisation ratios, ensuring heat from the exhaust gases is transferred to the incoming gases, and improving the methods for collecting current at both the anode and cathode.
Type of thesis
Hyde, A. J. (2008). A Portable Generator Incorporating Mini-Tubular Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (Thesis). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2582
The University of Waikato
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