Flame Solid Oxide Fuel Cells, Simple Devices to Extract Electricity Directly from Natural Gas and Liquid Petroleum Gas Flames

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


The aim of this proposal is to demonstrate direct flame solid oxide fuel cells (DFFCs) to extract electricity directly from natural gas and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) flames. DFFCs can be integrated into conventional burners and cookers to generate electricity as a useful by-product. They can remove electrical power requirements for managing the system and perhaps also provide the energy required for pumping. Potentially it can be used for remote and portable applications to power the wireless world. We will demonstrate DFFC cells with large area which can be directly put in the flame of a burner/cooker to generate electricity with the application of advanced materials. The novelty of these DFFCs lies in optimising the flame positioning on the performance of the cell and the use of redox stable cathode to improve the durability on redox and thermal cycling. Sealing is not required and DFFCs are relatively safe. Due to the presence of the flame, the DFFC operating environment with frequent redox and thermo cycling, the real challenge comes from the identification and application of robust materials. So far the best anode material for DFFCs is (La0.75Sr0.25)Cr0.5Mn0.5O3-delta (LSCM) which was developed and patented by the proposers therefore the anode will be focused on LSCM. However, the reported cathode used for DFFCs are not redox stable which may affect the durability. The proposed project is a collaboration between University of Strathclyde and University of St Andrews that involves a coordinated program to screen existing materials, investigate the flame, optimise the operating condition, design and built suitable test rig and test the performance and cycling stability of both small and big cells including multi-cell stacks. These simple DFFC devices will provide an ideal entry market for application of SOFCs. The IP generated from this project will be protected before publishing.

Planned Impact

There are many boats and caravans in the world. LPG is normally used as the gas to provide heat plus cooking. Besides heat, electricity is also required. To use a diesel engine to generate electricity is very noisy and inefficient. It will be a bonus of electricity can be extracted directly from the flame to power electronic on board.

B: Academic impact

Benefits to the general academic community of this work will be;

2. Demonstration of DFFCs on power generation from natural gas and LPG.
3. Demonstration of the use of redox stable cathode materials in DFFCs to improve the durability.
4. Fabrication of DFFCs with sufficient area for real applications.
5. Building on the previous achievements of the St Andrews and Strathclyde groups on redox stable materials for SOFCs will help establish world-leading capability in this area, which is important for the future competitiveness of the UK in this rapidly growing area.
6. Supporting fuel cell research in SuperGen H2 and Fuel Cells by sharing the knowledge and results in this area. The redox stable cathode can be adopted in conventional SOFCs as well.
7. Training of researchers in important fuel cell area.

C: Social and economy impact

Natural gas and LPG are widely used for heating and cooking. To integrate DFFCs onto a burner or cooker can extract electricity from flames. One quarters of world population lacks electricity while they have to use flame to cook for food. For people in poor areas, expensive conventional fuel cells are not affordable. As DFFCs is flexible in size, simple device, low lost, easy to be integrated to flames on a burner or cookers, this would be applicable for people to generate electricity for lighting and powering small electronics. Therefore the market for DFFCs is big and the social and economic impacts are huge as well. The UK has several companies able to exploit this technology including our project partners so this technology offers significant potential for economic growth and job creation.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/K021036/1 06/01/2014 29/06/2015 £726,512
EP/K021036/2 Transfer EP/K021036/1 30/06/2015 31/12/2017 £263,769
Description During the project, it was found that the anode is the key to the performance of flame SOFCs. It is important to use anode materials avoid carbon deposition in order to achieve long time stable performance.
Exploitation Route This may lead us towards developing flame SOFCs with stable performance for real applications.
Sectors Energy,Environment