Featured Project

Integrated SOFC/ICE System

Evaluating Engine Performance on Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Anode Tailgas

As part of an ARPA-E INTEGRATE program Czero worked towards developing an integrated SOFC/ICE system capable of generating power at >70% BTE
During Phase I Czero’s work included:

  • Modification and testing of a 1.0 l engine fumigated with a mixture of H2, CO, CO2, and H2O
  • Gas composition/temperature and water flowrate were precisely controlled and the test setup heavily instrumented
  • Engine was controlled via a custom ECU
  • All work was performed in Czero’s ISO container-based dyno cell separated from Czero’s main facilities enabling work with hazardous fuels
  • Supported high-level design and techno-economic analysis of fully integrated SOFC/ICE system

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell System

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SOFC Engine: Experimental Setup

Simplified Test Schematic
                                                                                                                                                                  Simplified Test Schematic

Running an engine on simulated anode tailgas required developing a specialized test setup for the dyno cell, select modifications included:

  • Gas mixing system using calibrated mass flow controllers. On-site gas mixing resulted in substantial cost savings when compared with pre-mixed gas bottles

  • Nafion based humidifier system to control water flowrate (used to replicate water content within anode tailgas steam)

  • Blower to replicate sea-level conditions at the engine’s intake (compensating for test facility's 5,000’ elevation and humidifier pressure drop)

  • Custom MotoHawk (Simulink) based ECU

SOFC Engine: Test Results

The prototype engine was evaluated over a range of conditions to determine the most efficient operating point for the integrated SOFT/ICE system.

  • A Kistler in-cylinder pressure transducer, along with a 0.1º resolution encoder, was used to calculate indicated metrics

  • Equivalence ratio (actual fuel/air ratio)/(Stoich fuel/air ratio), water content, and spark timing were varied to determine the most effect operating condition when operating on anode tailgas

  • Peak indicated thermal efficiencies were identified around an equivalence ratio of 0.7, while peak brake efficiencies were identified around an equivalence ratio of 0.85

Graph of Crank-Angle Resolved Brake Torque
Crank-Angle Resolved Brake Torque
Graph of Indicated Thermal Efficiency
Indicated Thermal Efficiency

SOFC Engine: Techno-Economic Analysis

ARPA-E projects are not just about developing solutions to challenging energy related projects, but also have a strong focus on commercializing these technologies. As part of the INTEGRATE Phase I project Czero also focused on this system’s techno-economics, including:

  • Developing an Excel based techno-economic analysis model for evaluating the integrated SOFC/ICE system
  • Performing sensitivity and scenario analysis to determine both which parameters have the greatest influence on system economics, and the degree of difficulty in changing these parameters. For example assuming limited funds are available are these funds better spent on reducing the levelized cost of energy by increasing system efficiency, or reducing capital expense
Graph of Levelized Cost of Energy
Graph of Sensitivity for Levelized Cost of Energy

Read a paper based on the work on this project here.

Nikiforakis, I., Ran, Z., Sprengel, M., Brackett, J., Babbitt, G. and Assanis, D., 2022. Investigating Realistic Anode Off-Gas Combustion in SOFC/ICE Hybrid Systems: Mini Review and Experimental Evaluation. International Journal of Engine Research, 23(5), pp.876-892.



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