- Jul 14, 2021 9:20 pm GMT
Many companies have been exploring SOECs (Solid Oxide Electrolyzer Cells). There's good reason: operating at high temperatures, they obtain much of the energy needed to split water molecules from heat rather than electricity. They can get close to 100% electrolytic efficiency simply with good thermal insulation. Waste heat from the electrical over-potentials needed to drive the hydrogen and oxygen evolution reactions can be retained as heat within the cell. The thermal energy replaces a corresponding amount of electrical energy, reducing the cell operating voltage. If an external source of high grade heat that can be tapped, the electrical energy is reduced even more.
All that has been known for a long time. High temperature SOECs have proven difficult to commercialize, however. I believe it's been mostly due to issues of cost and durability of the ceramic membranes involved. Bloom may have been able to leverage its considerable experience with high temperature SOFCs (solid oxide fuel cells) to become "first out of the gate" with this announcement of commercial SOECs. Other companies are likely to follow. It's all very good news for the prospects of green hydrogen for cheap long-term energy storage. This development alone promises to raise round-trip energy storage efficiency from its miserable current value of ca. 40% to northward of 50%. I'll speculate that within 3 years, we'll be looking at better than 60%.
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