SiEnergy Systems Claiming Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Breakthrough

January 18, 2009 by Jeff Shepard

SiEnergy Systems, LLC claims that it has developed a breakthrough solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) by placing a micro fuel cell directly on a silicon chip, an advance that it says will revolutionize the way people use power. These "Silicon Energy" fuel cells are said to address the problems that limit standard SOFCs: leveraging the power of silicon, they operate at lower temperatures and use normal industrial materials. The company states that this "radical new approach" promises to deliver SOFCs with small carbon footprints and unprecedented efficiency.

According to the company, while batteries merely store power, SOFCs actually create it. But standard SOFCs run on hydrogen – which is both expensive and volatile. The transformative advantage of SiEnergy’s fuel cells is they will also be able to generate power from gaseous hydrocarbon fuel sources, for example propane. The technology for these cells is said to have several advantages: it’s based on existing semiconductor fabrication techniques, can fit small form factors, is scalable and can be quickly adapted for commercial applications.

"SiEnergy’s fuel cells will tremendously expand fuel cell adoption across a wide range of applications, including automotive, portable electronics, materials handling, uninterrupted power supply systems, auxiliary power units, and mobile power sources for the leisure and marine markets, among others," said SiEnergy Systems CEO Michael Laine.

"Our team is very close to our goal of completing a high performance working prototype this month. Our fuel cells have the ability to be stacked to provide a variety of power outputs depending on customer requirements."

Current fuel cells operate at 800+ °C, which requires the use of expensive noble metals. "We’ve achieved a breakthrough power output while lowering operating temperatures to 500°C, a 35-50% gain over conventional SOFCs," Laine said. "This means lower ownership costs, reduced life cycle costs, and higher reliability. This is the beginning. We expect to lower operating temperatures another 200-300°C as we move to all-oxide fuel cells."

"We are extremely pleased with SiEnergy’s commercial progress to-date and look forward with anticipation at our fuel cells delivering to the market versatile, flexible, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly energy solutions," commented Chris Silva, CEO of Allied Minds, the parent company of SiEnergy.