Performance of a first-generation, aqueous-alkaline biocarbon fuel cell

Teppei Nunoura, Kiyoshi Dowaki, Chihiro Fushimi, Stephen Allen, E. Mészáros, Michael Jerry Antal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Because the carbon fuel cell has the potential to convert the chemical energy of carbon into electric power with an efficiency approaching 100%, there has been keen interest in its development for more than a century. A practical carbon fuel cell requires a carbon feed that conducts electricity and is highly reactive. Biocarbon (carbonized charcoal) satisfies both these criteria, and its combustion does not contribute to climate change. In this paper, we describe the performance of an aqueous-alkaline biocarbon fuel cell that generates power at temperatures of ∼500 K. Thermochemical equilibrium favors the reduction of oxygen on the cathode at temperatures of 500 K. Nevertheless, an aqueous-alkaline cell operating at 518 K and 35.8 bar was able to realize an open-circuit voltage of 0.57 V, a short circuit current density of 43.6 mA/cm2, and a maximum power of 19 mW, using a 6 M KOH/1 M LiOH mixed electrolyte with a catalytic silver screen/platinum foil cathode and an anode composed of 0.5 g of compacted corncob charcoal previously carbonized at 950°C. A comparison of temperature-programmed desorption (TPD) data for the oxidized biocarbon anode material with prior work suggests that the temperature of the anode was too low: carbon oxides accumulated on the biocarbon without the steady release of CO2 and active sites needed to sustain combustion. Consequently, the open-circuit voltage of the cell was less than the expected value (1V). Carbonate ions, formed in the electrolyte as a product of the reaction of CO2 with hydroxyl ions, can halt the operation of the cell. We show that the carbonate ion is not stable in hydrothermal solutions at 523 K and above; it decomposes via the release of CO2 and the formation of hydroxyl anion. Consequently, it should be possible to regenerate the electrolyte through the use of reaction conditions similar to those used in the fuel cell. We believe that substantial improvements in performance can be realized from an aqueous-alkaline cell whose cathode is designed to operate at temperatures significantly below 500 K, and whose biocarbon anode operates at temperatures significantly above 500 K.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)734-744
Number of pages11
JournalIndustrial and Engineering Chemistry Research
Volume46
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 31 2007

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Alkaline fuel cells
fuel cell
Carbon
Anodes
Electrolytes
Fuel cells
Cathodes
Charcoal
electrolyte
carbon
Carbonates
Open circuit voltage
temperature
Ions
charcoal
Temperature
ion
combustion
carbonate
Temperature programmed desorption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Performance of a first-generation, aqueous-alkaline biocarbon fuel cell. / Nunoura, Teppei; Dowaki, Kiyoshi; Fushimi, Chihiro; Allen, Stephen; Mészáros, E.; Antal, Michael Jerry.

In: Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research, Vol. 46, No. 3, 31.01.2007, p. 734-744.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Nunoura, Teppei ; Dowaki, Kiyoshi ; Fushimi, Chihiro ; Allen, Stephen ; Mészáros, E. ; Antal, Michael Jerry. / Performance of a first-generation, aqueous-alkaline biocarbon fuel cell. In: Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research. 2007 ; Vol. 46, No. 3. pp. 734-744.
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