Powder Metallurgy Interconnects – Key Components for High Temperature Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

November 10, 2010

A key component for interconnects used in stationary solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) systems was on display at the Elino Industrie-Ofenbau GmbH (Düren, Germany) stand at PM2010 in Florence. The SOFC interconnect is being produced by Plansee AG’s High Performance Materials Division from a tailored CrFe PM alloy. According to Plansee the so-called CFY- interconnects can be joined to high performance cells and hence enable the manufacture of ‘robust, high performance and low cost SOFC stacks’.

interconnectThe CrFe alloy interconnect plates are engineered to allow the stacks to operate continuously at high temperatures (ca. 900°C) without cracking. To accomplish this the alloy’s coefficient of thermal expansion has been matched to that of the fuel cells. Plansee produces the interconnects using a powder metallurgy process in which cost effective, custom developed metal powders are pressed into the desired plate-like shape. The parts are then sintered in a sintering furnace produced by Elino specifically for these materials.

Plansee reported earlier this year that its PM CrFe interconnects are being used in the Bloom groundbreaking Energy Server™ – a new class of distributed power generator, producing clean, reliable, affordable electricity at the customer site. Some 50 Bloom Energy Servers™ are currently producing power for several Fortune 500 companies including Google Inc, eBay Inc, Coca Cola Co, FedEx Corp and Staples Inc, and Wal-Mart stores. At the core of each Energy Server™ are fuel cell stacks, consisting of Bloom’s patented solid oxide fuel cells joined together with the special thin metal interconnect plates produced by Plansee. The devices work by converting air and a fuel, natural gas initially, into electricity through an electrochemical process. The Plansee CFY-interconnects are said to have established themselves as the industry standard for stationary SOFC systems in the power class from 1kW to 100 kW.

bloom_1The 100 kW Bloom Energy Server™  box is said to cost between $700,000 to $800,000, and can provide enough energy to power 100 average U.S. homes – with roughly the footprint of a car parking space.

Plansee’s High Performance Materials division also develops and manufactures an extensive range of products for high-temperature fuel cells, including ultra-thin interconnectors and metal supported solid oxide fuel cells used mainly in mobile and portable power generation systems, as well as for the reverse process of producing hydrogen. 

As reported on ipmd.net (30 July 2010) Plansee plans to invest more than $10 million in a highly automated interconnect production facility to meet growing demand. The facility will be based at GTP in Towanda, Penna., USA.

Two presentations covering recent developments in SOFC systems were given in a Special Interest Seminar entitled ‘PM – Beyond the Combustion Engine’ at PM2010 in Florence. The first by Dr Hans Peter Buchkremer, etal (Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany) covered ‘Cutting Edge Manufacturing Technologies for SOFC and Batteries’, and the second by Klaus Rissbacher, etal (Plansee SE, Austria) covered the ‘Industrialisation of PM Chromium-based Interconnects for SOFC Systems’.





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November 10, 2010

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