Research Papers

Thermodynamics and Transport Phenomena in High Temperature Steam Electrolysis Cells

[+] Author and Article Information
James E. O’Brien

 Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID 83415 e-mail: james.obrien@inl.gov

J. Heat Transfer 134(3), 031017 (Jan 18, 2012) (11 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4005132 History: Received July 12, 2010; Revised February 17, 2011; Published January 18, 2012; Online January 18, 2012

Hydrogen can be produced from water splitting with relatively high efficiency using high temperature electrolysis. This technology makes use of solid-oxide cells, running in the electrolysis mode to produce hydrogen from steam, while consuming electricity and high temperature process heat. The overall thermal-to-hydrogen efficiency for high temperature electrolysis can be as high as 50%, which is about double the overall efficiency of conventional low-temperature electrolysis. Current large-scale hydrogen production is based almost exclusively on steam reforming of methane, a method that consumes a precious fossil fuel while emitting carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. An overview of high temperature electrolysis technology will be presented, including basic thermodynamics, experimental methods, heat and mass transfer phenomena, and computational fluid dynamics modeling.

Copyright © 2012 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Schematic of a generic thermal water splitting process operating between temperatures TH and TL

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Figure 2

Theoretical thermal water splitting efficiencies

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Figure 3

Overall thermal-to-hydrogen production efficiencies based on HHV for several reactor/process concepts, as a function of reactor outlet temperature

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Figure 4

Schematic of a water or steam electrolysis process operating at temperature T

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Figure 5

Standard-state ideal energy requirements for electrolysis as a function of temperature

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Figure 6

Schematic cross-section of a planar high temperature electrolysis stack

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Figure 7

Thermal contributions in electrolysis and fuel-cell modes of operation

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Figure 8

Representative SOEC polarization curves; (a) button cell (b) planar stack

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Figure 9

Transport and electrochemical phenomena in solid-oxide electrolysis cells

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Figure 10

Predicted operating voltage and gas outlet temperatures for adiabatic electrolyzer operation; comparison of integral model with full 3D fluent simulation; (a) polarization curves; (b) stack temperatures as a function of operating voltage

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Figure 11

Comparison of internal stack temperature predictions with experimentally measured values; (a) polarization curves; (b) stack temperatures as a function of operating voltage

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Figure 12

Temperature (K) contours on the electrolyte and insulator for currents of 10 (a), 15 (b), and 30 (c) amps

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Figure 13

Current density (A/m2 ) contours on the electrolyte for currents of 10 (a), 15 (b), and 30 (c) amps



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