Skip to Content

Fuel Cell for Coal

GE’s solid-oxide cell could be an energy breakthrough
January 1, 2007

Solid-oxide fuel cells that use gasified coal as a hydrogen source are a good candidate for the power plants of the future, because they can operate cleanly at high efficiencies and large sizes. But among the challenges they face, high manufacturing costs loom large. Now, GE researchers have demonstrated a method for assembling layers of ceramic and metal materials cheaply enough that a solid-oxide fuel cell system can be built for about $800 per kilowatt, which starts to approach the $500 to $550 per kilowatt of a conventional gas-fired plant. GE’s six-­kilowatt prototype (left) is a little more than two meters tall, with the fuel cell stack in the top section, and piping and control systems in the cooler lower section. The performance of the prototype suggests that a larger version could lead to gasified-coal-fueled power plants with greater than 50 percent efficiency, much better than the 35 percent efficiency of conventional plants. “I do believe GE has established a new state of the art,” says Wayne ­Surdoval, technology manager for fuel cells at the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Shown here is an image of GE’s six-kilowatt prototype, which is a little more than two meters tall, with the fuel cell stack in the top section, and piping and control systems in the cooler lower section.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break in the coming weeks

One insider says the company’s current staffing isn’t able to sustain the platform.

Technology that lets us “speak” to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready?

Digital clones of the people we love could forever change how we grieve.

How to befriend a crow

I watched a bunch of crows on TikTok and now I'm trying to connect with some local birds.

Starlink signals can be reverse-engineered to work like GPS—whether SpaceX likes it or not

Elon said no thanks to using his mega-constellation for navigation. Researchers went ahead anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.