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Integrating Thermoelectrics in Catalytic Combustors

Principal Investigator(s): 


This program continues to investigate the integration of thermoelectric (TE) generators into solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) anode exhaust combustors in order to extract additional power for higher system efficiency and to reduce start-up battery needs in portable SOFC power systems. The proposed integrated TE / catalytic combustor system is targeted for small-scale SOFC systems with net power < 1 kW where improvements in their currently low system efficiencies (20-30%) can greatly impact system viability and fuel requirements. The design and integration of high-temperature TE power generation with a catalytic combustor may also open up additional applications involving waste heat recovery in various exhaust clean-up systems. For the current program, the focus will be on the SOFC application and will benefit from ongoing activities in SOFC’s and thermoelectrics at the University of Maryland (UMD). The proposed program will integrate a range of modeling tools developed at UMD and develop a prototype, multi-functional catalytic combustor/TE generator/recuperator for cost-effective implementation of the TE generators into SOFC waste heat recovery.

figure 1
A schematic showing idealized flow path of fuel and air through small-scale portable SOFC with catalytic
partial oxidation of hydrocarbon fuel, an SOFC membrane electrode assembly, and a waste fuel
combustor/recuperator for air preheating. Not shown in the image are air blower, hybrid batteries for system
start-up and load following.