Among the numerous modern, high-efficiency energy technologies allowing for the conversion of chemical energy of coal into electricity and heat, the Direct Carbon Fuel Cells (DCFC) deserve special attention. These are devices that allow, as the only one among all types of fuel cells, to directly convert the chemical energy contained in solid fuel (coal) into electricity. In addition, they are characterized by high efficiency and low emission of pollutants. The paper reviews and discusses previous research and development works, both around the world and in Poland, into the technology of direct carbon fuel cells with an alkaline (hydroxide) electrolyte.
The direct carbon fuel cell technology provides excellent conditions for conversion of chemical energy of carbon-containing solid fuels directly into electricity. The technology is very promising since it is relatively simple compared to other fuel cell technologies and accepts all carbon-reach substances as possible fuels. Furthermore, it makes possible to use atmospheric oxygen as the oxidizer. In this paper the results of authors' recent investigations focused on analysis of the performance of a direct carbon fuel cell supplied with graphite, granulated carbonized biomass (biocarbon), and granulated hard coal are presented. The comparison of the voltage-current characteristics indicated that the results obtained for the case when the cell was operated with carbonized biomass and hard coal were much more promising than those obtained for graphite. The effects of fuel type and the surface area of the cathode on operation performance of the fuel cell were also discussed.
The influences of various operating conditions including cathode inlet air flow rate, electrolyte temperature and fuel particles size on the performance of the direct carbon fuel cell DCFC were presented and discussed in this paper. The experimental results indicated that the cell performance was enhanced with increases of the cathode inlet gas flow rate and cell temperature. Binary alkali hydroxide mixture (NaOH-LiOH, 90-10 mol%) was used as electrolyte and the biochar of apple tree origin carbonized at 873 K was used as fuel. Low melting temperature of the electrolyte and its good ionic conductivity enabled to operate the DCFC at medium temperatures of 723-773 K. The highest current density (601 A m−2) was obtained for temperature 773 K and air flow rate 8.3×106 m3s−1. Itwas shown that too low or too high air flow rates negatively affect the cell performance. The results also indicated that the operation of the DCFC could be improved by proper selection of the fuel particle size.