Micro-SOFC Technology a Possible Plus for Yttrium Demand

May. 3, 2016

Potential alternative for ubiquitous batteries

Researchers at Pohang University of Science & Technology (“POSTech”) have developed a small-scale solid oxide fuel cell (“SOFC”) with potential for replacing batteries in consumer electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and more. In such applications SOFCs offer the promise of a longer-lasting and cleaner power source, but operate at very high temperatures that present technical and product-life challenges that have inhibited large-scale commercialization to date.

Replacing the weak link in micro-SOFC systems

The POSTech research team claims to have developed a much more thermally and mechanically robust system that uses porous stainless steel to support the cell’s internal membranes as opposed to silicon, which is typically the weak-link in micro-SOFC systems. The stainless steel base is coated with a thin contact layer of lanthanum-bearing ceramic and yttria-stabilized zirconia. The contact layer is further coated with a gas-tight yttria-stabilized zirconia electrolyte.

Consumer electronics could boost yttrium demand for SOFCs

As we have noted at length in past market studies, the adoption of SOFCs for stationary power generation has potential to create significant new demand for yttrium oxide in the next five to ten years. The latest research by POSTech suggests that SOFCs may also find viable commercial applications in ubiquitous electronics, boosting the amount of new yttrium oxide demand that could be created by SOFCs substantially.

 

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