Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Of course, there are other roadblocks. Sulfur in the hydrocarbon fuel can contaminate the fuel cell and degrade it. GE and others are working on various pre-treatment processes to keep the contaminant out of the fuel cell. For example, researchers at Tufts University have developed a way to use cerium and lanthanum oxides to remove sulfur.

Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos, a chemical engineer at Tufts who led development of the scrubber, cautions that while the GE work is impressive, large challenges lie ahead. “I think that the reported numbers represent a significant development,” she says. “Of course, scale-up systems must be shown to be equally efficient in future work.”

The work is part of a Department of Energy clean-coal initiative launched in 2003 that aims to build, within ten years, a highly efficient, multi-megawatt, solid-oxide fuel-cell power plant paired with coal-gasification technology. The United States is thought to have about 250 years’ worth of coal in the ground. But burning coal looms as a major factor in increasing global warming; indeed, coal releases more carbon dioxide for each unit of energy produced than any other fossil fuel does.

In coal-gasification plants, the coal is heated and turned into a “syngas,” a mixture of mainly carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This can then be combusted in a type of power plant called Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle. The GE technology would allow hydrogen to be pulled out of the syngas and sent through a solid-oxide fuel cell.

4 comments. Share your thoughts »

Tagged: Energy

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me