Numerical modeling of a solid oxide fuel cell for use in real-time simulation and cyber-physical systems

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Arias, Jesus Emmanuel
Haynes, Comas
Ghiaasiaan, S. Mostafa
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Cyber-physical systems provide a mechanism with which to investigate the physical phenomena and behavior of traditionally cost-prohibitive or otherwise fragile equipment. For the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), this approach resulted in the Hybrid Performance (Hyper) facility which features a gas turbine-SOFC hybrid cycle utilizing real turbomachinery and a simulated SOFC stack. This allows for the investigation of combined cycle performance and control strategies, in an exhaustive manner, both without fear of destroying delicate state-of-the-art fuel cells, and with the full accuracy of real-world turbomachinery. Issues arose between the transient response of the SOFC model being limited to a sample time of 80 milliseconds, due to the calculation time of the SOFC model taking on average 40 milliseconds to calculate for a given timestep with spikes in calculation time reaching the 80 millisecond threshold. In order to be able to match the speed of transients from the turbomachinery and likewise better discern transient behavior, it was determined that the SOFC model must be optimized to operate at a sample time of 5 milliseconds. Therefore, it is necessary to optimize the SOFC model in order to decrease the calculation time from around 40 milliseconds, down to at the most 5 milliseconds. To do this, both the electrochemical algorithm and the thermal algorithm used to simulate the physical behavior of the SOFC are investigated to determine where improvements can be made. To this end the rootfinding numerical recipes of the electrochemical algorithm are investigated as the complex electrochemistry requires a highly iterative nested dual convergence loop to resolve the voltage-current relationship, and likewise the temporal discretization of the thermal algorithm is modified for the sake of higher accuracy and stability. Ultimately the new electrochemical algorithm featuring higher order rootfinding schemes proves to be efficient enough to reach the sub 5 millisecond target, signifying an order of magnitude reduction in calculation time, and when coupled with the new temporal discretization similar calculation time characteristics show that a fully implicit, higher order temporal discretization can also successfully be used if desired. Ultimately this result means that the cyber-physical simulation system can operate at higher sample rates, and resolve transient events at significantly higher resolution and fidelity.
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