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Combustion Synthesis for Molten Carbonates


Application of Combustion Synthesis Method to Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell Technology

Tech Area / Field

  • NNE-FCN/Fuel Conversion/Non-Nuclear Energy

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
VNIIEF, Russia, N. Novgorod reg., Sarov


  • General Atomics, USA, CA, San Diego

Project summary

Fuel Cells are electrochemical devices that convert the chemical energy of fuel directly into electrical energy. In a typical fuel cell, gaseous fuels (products of coal gasification, natural gas, hydrogen and so on) are fed continuously to the anode compartment and an oxidant (i.e., oxygen from air) is fed continuously to the cathode compartment; the electrochemical reactions take place at the electrodes to produce an electric current.

The Fuel Cell is an energy conversion device which theoretically has the capability of producing electrical energy for as long as the fuel and oxidant are supplied to the porous electrodes. In reality, degradation or malfunction of components limits the practical life time of Fuel Cells.

Usually the Fuel Cells are classified according to the type of electrolyte used in the cells. Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell (MCFC) uses melts of alcali metal carbonates. MCFC operating temperature is equal to about 650 °C.

At the present time power plants based on MCFC (multi-MW rating) have great potential for wide practical use and commercial production. It's due to their high efficiency and low environmental pollutions.

Possible applications of MCFC power plants are: stationary units in environmentally restricted areas; at substations as dispersed or distributed power units; where low-Btu off-gases are available at low cost. It is anticipated that MCFC power plants will successfully compete with heat- and atomic power stations in the near future.

Great efforts of USA, Japanese and European scientists and engineers are pouring now into basic technology development such as material research, cell and stack technology, computer simulation, system design, optimization and tests.

More than one hundred USA corporations and research centers are working now on these subjects under auspice of U.S. Department of Energy.

About two hundred Japanese research centers and corporations, including Osaka National Research Institute, Tohoku University, MCFC Research Assoсiation, Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd., Mitsubishi El. Corp. are taking part in MCFC technology programs under auspice of New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

One of the main problem which limits the wide use of these promising power plants is a high cost of MCFC and its components production (including cost of raw materials).

In addition MCFC life time is less than required one (40,000 h and more). It's due to action of degradation and corrosion processes that takes place under MCFC operating conditions.

We propose to improve MCFC technology by the means of novel cost-effective promising Combustion Synthesis Method (CSM) to produce corrosion-resistivity doped oxide structures for MCFC cathodes having improved performance. Also the proposal can be applied to Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) technology.

It's necessary to mark that Self-propagating High-temperature Synthesis (SHS) term is equivalent for Combustion Synthesis one.

Project goal: Development of advanced high-productivity and cost-effective technology for production of corrosion-resistivity oxide ceramics like doped LiFeO2, LiCoO2 and LaMnO3 for MCFC improved cathodes. As a rule indicated oxides are produced by routine solid state synthesis in a furnace.

Project method: Synthesis of complex doped oxides in the wave of solid-phase combustion which self-propagates through the bulk of initially (preliminary) prepared powder mixtures including doping powder additivities. The synthesis is performed beyond a furnace. Besides doping process of synthesis products is realized directly in the combustion wave.

Project results: Application of Combustion Synthesis to MCFC technology will be allow:

· to enlarge the MCFC life time (by the increase of cathodes corrosion resistivity);
· to increase the specific output (by the improvement of cathode electro-conductivity and electro-chemical activity);
· to reduce the cost.

It's due to specific conditions which are realized in the combustion wave. Combustion Synthesis rapidity is far more than Solid State Synthesis one.

In particular the following tasks will be completed:

· conditions of synthesis and recipes of initial powder mixtures including doping additivities that are insuring the most electro-conductivity, electro-chemical activity and corrosion resistivity of fabricated cathodes have been defined;
· improved cathode materials by the means of novel technology techniques have been obtained;
· electro-conductivity, polarization and corrosion resistivity of routine and novel cathodes have been compared by the means of laboratory-scale MCFC tests;
· recommendations for commercial use of novel technology have been given.

We assume that project results will be patent- and market-ability both for MCFC and for SOFC technologies. RFNC-VNIIEF scientists and engineers which will be busy in the project have unique 35 years experience in the Combustion Synthesis Method. It's more than anywhere in the world.

Capability of project realization has been proved by available experimental results as well as experience and skill of participants. So we have now a samples of perovskite- type oxide LaMnO3 powders which were produced and doped by the means of Combustion Synthesis.

Under the project implementation the group of RFNC-VNIIEF scientists and engineers who are taking part in the nuclear weapon development and tests, will be busy at peaceful problems.

We welcome European, Japanese and American developers to collaboration.


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