The fuel can be methane, propane gas.
The unit 'box' uses about half the normal amount of fuel to generate the same amount of electricity. And they say it will be cheaper to buy than solar equipment, not to mention take up much less of a foot print.
Here's hoping big-money doesn't try to undermine it.
Wonder if they will get some stimulus money for this project??
It is a solid oxide fuel cell, a technology most people haven't heard of yet, but which one of my favorite professors had been working on for a while. As one of the people they interviewed mentioned, GE and Siemens have both been making this sort of thing for a while.
SOFCs are basically catalyst combustion ceramics, that only take in oxygen ions through an insulating membrane. This means a large fraction of the energy of combustion is harnessed as an ion current, as happens in a battery. Quite often the waste heat is also used, either for domestic hot water, or to power a gas turbine for more electricity.
Typically, SOFC can burn anything that a ceramic catalyst can burn, including biogas. eBay runs their Bloom Box system on biogas from a landfill, but I imagine an intentional community could co-generate electricity and hot water from a digester. Sulfur in the fuel supply can be a big problem, but there are good scrubbers to remove sulfur.
There's lots of hype for one particular brand name, but the technology in general has a lot of potential...if you'll pardon the pun.
At $7000 to $8000 per kilowatt this isn't exactly groundbreaking nor is the technology new. Looks like another hype, get the investment dollars then announce a few years later the technology can't be made cheap enough to compete in the market.
I think they definitely have a niche to fill: people who want to build server farms on top of old landfills, for instance.
But yes, they aren't replacing steam turbines.
A similar technology will IMHO become an integral part of gas turbines, though.
Wonder of Prof Nocera's system can somehow provide the power - oxygen or hydrogen?
They have a lot of competition, too! Photocatalysts are mostly exciting for a lot of other reasons, and I'm excited by the research there on several fronts.
A related technology makes CO using solar power. Although it's more toxic, CO is easier to store and is a more-concentrated fuel, and has an important place as a polymer feedstock. Making polymers out of photocatalytically reduced CO might sequester significant amounts of carbon.
By looking up the Wikipedia article for this post, I discovered that it's also possible to make methane directly from CO[sub]2[/sub] and water, with the right sort of photocatalyst. I don't think that's yet as efficient as growing biomass and digesting it anaerobically, though.
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