PITA Fiscal Year 2015 Projects

Intermediate temperature fuel cells for fuel production from gaseous hydrocarbons: Benzene to Phenol

Lead University: Carnegie Mellon University
PI: Venkat Viswanathan, Mechanical Engineering
Co-PI(s): Jay Whitacre, Materials Science and Engineering

Intermediate temperature fuel cells (ITFCs) that can convert natural gas or other hydrocarbons into liquid fuels using excess renewable energy can enable a more distributed electricity generation. Typical high temperature solid oxide fuel cells result in complete oxidation of hydrocarbons into H2O and CO2. However, intermediate temperatures could enable partial oxidation of gaseous hydrocarbons into liquid fuels. Some examples could include conversion of methane into methanol, ethers, or benzene into phenol etc. The proposed research involves developing materials (electrodes and compatible electrolytes) for an all solid-state fuel cell that has the capability to convert benzene to phenol. We will develop electrode/electrolyte combinations using density functional theory calculations for the electrochemical conversion of benzene to phenol and these predictions will be tested in a single-cell microtubular solid-state fuel cell with the help of our industry partner. This particular use of an electrochemical cell likens it to a small-scale gas-to-liquids reactor (GTL).