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Advanced monitoring, diagnostics and lifetime estimation for stationary SOFC stacks and modules
Deadline: May 3, 2016  

 Horizon Europe

Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

Solid oxide fuel cell technology for stationary applications is approaching the market. More and more demonstration systems are installed. One important cost aspect is the SOFC unit and its lifetime and durability, which still determine large part of the total costs. While durability studies on SOFC stacks or modules have been carried out comprehensively using advanced methodology, there is only limited monitoring of the state of the SOFC during operation in the field available or not even existing at all. That is a costly problem as the systems cannot counteract properly if a SOFC stack starts to malfunction or to degrade fatally. A stack monitoring and diagnostic methodology is therefore needed to evaluate the state of health of a working SOFC, to detect and identify critical operation, and to counteract appropriately on a system level before fatal damage has occurred on the SOFC stack.

Previous projects have proposed monitoring and diagnostic techniques for their implementation in real systems. Balance of Plant faults and stack malfunctions detection methodologies based on conventional approaches are available after the project GENIUS, which concentrated mostly on the system’s component faults identification. A further advancement has been achieved by the project DESIGN towards the development of passive signal-based techniques for the identification of high fuel utilization and slow degradation phenomena. A step forward is now being accomplished by the project DIAMOND to merge conventional monitoring and diagnostics with control techniques to improve reliability and performance of SOFC. However the state-of-the-art of EU research lacks solutions and instruments dealing with SOFC degradation and prognosis for on-field advanced monitoring that may support diagnostic and lifetime tools. A step forward is required to lift laboratory oriented techniques along with theoretical and modeling studies towards a practical implementation in real SOFC systems. Moreover, several solutions developed for PEMFC (already at TRL 4) are based on advanced monitoring and diagnostic methodologies that may be applied for SOFC as well.


The overall objective is to develop advanced, robust and cost efficient monitoring and diagnostic tools for stacks/modules in working SOFC, which are to be integrated into the system. The challenge of advancing laboratory application and complex experimental or modeling tools towards their embedding in SOFC system must be clearly addressed. Achieving these objectives will lead to improved durability and reduction of TCO (Total cost of ownership) of SOFC systems thus fostering fuel cell market penetration.

Activities will be devoted to build a new framework for monitoring and diagnostics with high accuracy and reliability. Therefore the methodologies to identify and quantify degradation phenomena are the main scope of the topic. All available knowledge on degradation, mostly exploited for laboratory use and theoretical studies, should be used to perform on-field condition monitoring analysis (e.g. state of health) for easy-to-implement and fast lifetime prediction algorithms. The proposal should also leverage the outcomes of past and on-going projects to address the following objectives:

  • Enhanced understanding of stack degradation mechanisms in real operating conditions using both experimental and modelling approaches
  • Identify suitable monitoring parameters at stack and system levels that indicate critical state of the SOFC stack/module within the system
  • Define the most suitable and efficient monitoring and diagnostic tools with lifetime forecast functions embedded that do not add more than 3% to the total system manufacturing costs
  • Development of cost-effective monitoring methods to discover fatal degradation in time to start appropriate protective actions, thereby prolonging SOFC lifetime by 5% and increase availability by 1%
  • Implement the proposed algorithms in a SOFC system and perform relevant tests to demonstrate on-line the effectiveness of the developed tool

All methodologies and tools must comply with industry standards for a straightforward implementation within SOFC system monitoring and control equipment.

The activities should build on existing, available results from previous or on-going projects. SOFC systems used are expected to be at TRL 6 or higher.

TRL at start: 3

TRL at end: 5

The TRLs refer to the concerned tools for monitoring, diagnostics and lifetime estimation.

The consortium should include at least one SOFC stack/module manufacturer, research institutions and academic groups. To be eligible for participation a consortium must contain at least one constituent entity of the Industry or Research Grouping.

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 2.5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected duration: 3 years

A maximum of 1 project may be funded under this topic.

Expected Impact:

Proposals are expected to achieve a substantial improvement over the state-of-the-art by achieving most of the following targets:

  • The most relevant degradation mechanisms in SOFC systems for specific stationary market segments have to be identified based on data for system testing and analysed with respect to impact on lifetime, such as fatal impact or slow decrease of power output (for example: redox failure, corrosion, poisoning, etc.)
  • Monitoring parameters have to be identified that reveal state-of-health of SOFC stacks regarding those identified critical mechanisms
  • Counter measures to prevent fatal SOFC stack failure have to be proposed, including possible regular treatments that prevent or slow-down long-term degradation
  • Integration and validation of the method into a system
  • It has to be shown that the added cost of the monitoring/diagnostics approach does not increase the overall system manufacturing costs by more than 3%.

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