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ARPA-E Invests $33 Million for Projects Aimed at Transforming Fuel Cell Technology

Karen Henry

arpa-e-energy-manageThe U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) announced $33 million in funding for 13 new projects aimed at developing transformational fuel cell technologies for low-cost distributed power generation. The projects, which are funded through ARPA-E’s new Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems (REBELS) program, are focused on improving grid stability, balancing intermittent renewable technologies and reducing CO2 emissions using electrochemical distributed power-generation systems.

Fuel cells are optimal for distributed power generation systems, which offer an alternative to large, centralized power generation facilities or power plants. While centralized power generation systems have an excellent economy of scale, they often require long transmission distances between supply and distribution points, leading to efficiency losses throughout the grid. Additionally, it can be challenging to integrate energy from renewable energy sources into centralized systems.

Current, state-of-the-art fuel cell research generally focuses on technologies that either operate at high temperatures for grid-scale applications or at low temperatures for vehicle technologies. The REBELS projects focus on low-cost intermediate-temperature fuel cells (ITFCs) emphasizing three technical approaches.

The first approach will deliver efficient, reliable ITFCs made from low-cost materials and system components for use in distributed generation systems. The second approach integrates both ITFCs and electricity storage at the device‐level rather than system‐level, enabling a battery-like response to transient power loads. The third approach develops ITFCs that also convert methane or other gaseous hydrocarbons into liquid fuels using excess energy.

ARPA-E launched the REBELS program in late 2013.



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