This Small Business Innovation Research Phase II project will continue the commercial development of the Liquid Tin Anode Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (LTA-SOFC) for direct conversion of biomass to electrical power. The LTA-SOFC is a transformational energy technology that dramatically increases the efficiency and simplicity of power generation from conventional fuels. In biopower, the LTA-SOFC provides a pathway to improve efficiency and capital cost and also enables smaller scale applications. Phase I successfully demonstrated the feasibility of direct biomass conversion to power, using biomass feed stocks which can have significant societal, environmental and economic impacts. Specifically in Phase I several different types of biomass including poplar and switchgrass were used to generate power in an actual LTA-SOFC cell. Post-test analysis indicated no ash fusion and near 100% fuel utilization (little residual carbon left). The Phase II effort will continue development of biopower applications for LTA-SOFC by demonstrating biomass fuel efficiency in a small stack assembly with continuous feeding. Also, evaluation of the fate of biomass-specific volatile components such as potassium will contribute to the understanding of LTA-SOFC longevity. Phase II will demonstrate additional LTA-SOFC biopower technical performance to reduce risk and increase the potential for commercialization of LTA-SOFC biopower.
The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will be increased use of renewable power. Currently biomass contributes only 1% of U.S. electric power despite available resources to provide over 20%. Increased use of biomass for electric power will reduce carbon emissions, increase energy security and create domestic jobs. Efficiencies lower than 20% and high capital cost of today?s technology make conventional biomass power about twice as expensive as coal limiting market penetration to about 1%. LTA-SOFC Direct Biomass generators will reduce the cost of power and lower capital cost while reducing emissions and feedstock consumption by 2-3 times. The EIA predicts that by 2030, biomass will generate 4.5% of U.S electricity, representing an available market for LTA-SOFC of about $30 billion. The LTA-SOFC commercialization strategy starts with small devices. Growth into commercial markets will provide the maturity required for more demanding biomass power markets. In the biopower area military users have powerful adoption incentive that will encourage them to become early adopters. The US defense establishment has a goal to use renewable energy for 25% of the facility electrical consumption by 2025. This SBIR will reduce technical risk, providing confidence for integrator partners to co-invest in commercialization of LTA-SOFC biomass generators.