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Fuel Preheaters for Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

High temperature solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) are a clean, pollution-free technology that require elevated temperatures to generate electricity at high efficiencies. In these applications the fuel cell must be elevated to high temperature ranging from 500 to 800C. Usually in the 120kW and less. They run at relatively low pressure. This application requires very high temperatures but low pressure and pressure drops are a primary concern.

Our high temperature electric air heaters are used in fuel cell research facilities to get the fuel cell initially running at a steady state and to supplement heat recovery. Consistent temperatures are required by our fuel cell customers for efficiency and performance.  

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The fuel cell is a device that electrochemically oxidises a fuel creating a flow of electrons. There are two phases where temperature is considered. The first is when we're getting the fuel cell kicked off to the point at which it begins to run at a fairly steady state. The second is when the byproducts (which are very hot) are used to preheat the two gas streams in a mechanical heat recovery process.

The ideal gasses being used are hydrogen and oxygen. Fuel cells have what’s called the fuel stream and the oxygen stream. If you use hydrogen the byproduct is basically water. In the fuel cell the hydrogen and oxygen meet and make an electric current and react. You put it through different electrodes and you make water but in the process you generate an electrical current. Those two gasses need to be preheated.

The goal has been to get to ‘self sustaining’ meaning the heat that is generated is enough to preheat the gases coming in and everything is fine. You won’t need electric heaters at that point.

Our electric heaters are currently used in both phases. They are used to get the fuel cell up and running to a steady state. After they recover some of that heat, the heaters are run way down low but just enough to supplement the heat recovery mechanism, making sure the minimum required heat is in the fuel cell.

Fuel Cell advantages include...

  • You don’t need to be on the grid
  • You can create a lot of electricity
  • A much more efficient process
  • You don’t create as much CO2
  • You don’t create Nitrogen (the NOx) or sulfur byproducts

Fuel Cell research is helping to drive the Fuel Cell Industry and make it a viable alternative.

Industry Brief:

  • High Temperatures 500 to 800C
  • 120kW or less
  • Low Pressure
  • Pressure Drops are a Concern

These are research applications requiring vey high temperatures but low pressure and minimal pressure drops.

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