Final Report: Pollution Reduction and Resources Saving Through the Use of Waste Derived Gas for Fueling a High Temperature Fuel Cell

EPA Grant Number: SU831896
Title: Pollution Reduction and Resources Saving Through the Use of Waste Derived Gas for Fueling a High Temperature Fuel Cell
Investigators: Sammes, Nigel M. , Bove, Roberto , Bu, Kyunga , Holden, William , Pusz, Jakub
Institution: University of Connecticut
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2004 through May 30, 2005
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The project’s focus was to demonstrate the viability of running a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) off recovered landfill gas (LFG) to produce electricity and heat. The landfill gas is naturally produced via the metabolism of organic wastes by anaerobic microorganisms. It consists mostly of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Landfill gas in mostly utilized by combustion in internal combustion engines, gas-tired boilers, gas turbines and by flaring. All of these utilization techniques are characterized by low efficiency and emission of number of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO).

Fuel cells are ultra-clean, high efficiency energy conversion devices that electrochemically oxidize fuel with no potential of NOx or CC formation. High temperature solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) is characterized by long-term stability of electrochemical cells, electrical efficiency higher than 50% and in case of combined heat and power system the efficiency is as high as 90%. The SOFC gives a unique opportunity to be run off a variety of hydrocarbon-based fuels and shows high tolerance towards pollutants. The SOFC is easy in operation and does not require sophisticated balance of the plant. Due to the ability of performing internal reforming of methane directly on SOFC’s anode, the external fuel reformer is not required. Therefore, the complete system is composed of simple sulfur scrubber, fuel cell stack, fuel feeding system and control electronics. The only by-products of SOFC operation are water vapor, carbon dioxide and high quality heat.

The application of fuel cells for utilization of landfill gas will allow producing clean electricity from fully renewable resources. It will greatly contribute to reduction of emissions of greenhouse and ozone destructing gases and will lower the society’s dependence on oil- and carbon-based fuels.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

The methods for landfill gas collection techniques have been researched. The manufacturing methods of tubular solid oxide fuel cells have been fully developed and several cells have been produced. The long-term tests of the cells have been performed and no degradation of performance has been observed. The cells were manufactured using ultra-thin electrolyte deposition techniques that governed very high power density of the cells. A number of cells have been manufactured and tested proving the repeatability of the developed manufacturing techniques.


It was demonstrated that the project team is capable of developing techniques for solid oxide fuel cell manufacturing. The results of this project are immensely applicable to a wide variety of industries. Not only can SOFCs be utilized in energy recovery at a landfill, but the technology can be applied to supply power to homes, hospitals, and remote areas. The ability to use a wide variety of fuels such as hydrogen, natural gas, and other hydrocarbons and even ammonia, offers tremendous flexibility that is unheard of in other types of power generation.

Finally, the project contributed to sustainability by promoting the recovery of energy from fully renewable resources. In addition, the use of a fuel cell in the collection of landfill gas benefits the environment by means of elimination of the emission of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Proposed Phase II objectives and strategies:

Phase II objectives center around stacking up of the solid oxide fuel cells to produce more power. In order to better understand interactions between the cells and susceptibility to fuel impurities long-term tests using different materials and designs will be performed. A number of stack designs will be evaluated and tested in a furnace before the actual construction of a stand alone fuel cell stack. One of the novel ideas that will be investigated is the use of modules consisting of two or three cells connected electrically in parallel. The proposed design introduces a degree of modularity to the fuel cell stack to make assembly and maintenance more user friendly.

Supplemental Keywords:

Solid oxide fuel cell, Landfill gas energy recovery, anode-supported tubular SOFC,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, waste reduction, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Economics and Business, Environmental Engineering, energy conservation, industrial design for environment, life cycle analysis, waste to fuel conversion, sustainable development, waste minimization, waste recycling, alternative products, environmental conscious construction, fuel cell energy systems, alternative materials, fuel cell, alternative fuel, innovative technology, life cycle assessment, alternative energy source, environmentally conscious design

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