A special grade of stainless steel is being used in an Australian-developed environmentally friendly energy production method.
Solid oxide fuel cells extract the energy from fuels such as natural gas by electrochemical rather than traditional combustion means. producing cheaper, cleaner and more convenient eledricity.
lnterconned material made from half to one millimetre thick SAS 'Self Aluminising Steel' sheet conneds individual fuel cells together, conduding eledricity and heat within the fuel cell stack. The fuel cells are the brainchild of Melbourne-based company Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited and have been in development for eight years.
Managing Diredor, Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited, Dr Bruce Godfrey said stainless steel was the most suitable interconned material in terms of performance and produdion.
"Because the fuel cells operate at 800°C we need high temperature steels that can withstand the rigours of increasing temperatures and the fuels that we put into them," he said.
"Stainless steel in this respect fitted the bill perfectly for the stage of development we are at.
"The material has also proven very efficient during the prototype - development stage because it can be laser cut to size rapidly."
The special grade of stainless steel was chosen because of its superior performance in stopping the emission of chromium oxides from the steel. This chromium loss from the interconnect material destroys the fuel cell cathode.
Using the SAS grade of stainless steel solved the problem as its properties ensure chromium remains within the stainless steel interconnect material.
The current prototype size for the cell is 90 millimetres x 110 millimetres with the company anticipating using a variety of different shapes in the production stage.
Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited has schedules commercial production of the fuel cells to begin in late 2003.
This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 17, January 2001.