183. DIRECT CARBON FUEL CELLS (DCFCs)
James Fraser is the author of the The Energy Blog, one of the Internet's best resources on energy R&D. From time to time, we talk about new technologies here on POD, but we also have other fish to fry. So if you want the real details on what's happening in energy R&D, Jim's blog is the place to go.
On Dec. 3, Jim posted on an interesting new technology called Direct Carbon Fuel Cells (DCFCs) being developed by SRI International. From their announcement:
DCFCs convert the chemical energy in coal directly into electricity without the need for gasification. SRI's new DCFC technology has several potential benefits. It produces electricity at a competitive cost from a variety of fuels including coal, coke, tar, biomass and organic waste. In addition, it is two times more fuel-efficient than today's coal-fired power plants, resulting in reduced carbon dioxide emissions. The process produces almost pure carbon dioxide, which can be contained in a concentrated stream and easily captured for downstream use or disposal.And from Red Herring:
Unlike hydrogen and methanol fuel cells, SRI's carbon fuel cells use no catalyst or costly noble metals like platinum. That again cuts costs, and should increase reliability, said Mr. Dubois.
Finally, the technology makes it easier to capture carbon dioxide. Current legislation doesn't require the capture of carbon dioxide, but "the world is going in that direction," said Mr. Dubois. Such legislation would give SRI's fuel cells a competitive advantage because sequestering carbon dioxide from traditional coal plants is a complicated and costly process, and SRI could significantly lower that cost, he said.
If carbon-dioxide-capturing costs are included, SRI's technology could cost up to 50 percent less than current plants, he added. That could also assuage some environmentalist concerns, as no carbon dioxide emissions would be released into the atmosphere.
-- by JD