Radiative and transient thermal modeling of solid oxide fuel cells

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Damm, David L.
Fedorov, Andrei G.
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Thermo-mechanical failure of components in planar-type solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) is a major obstacle on the path to bringing this technology to commercial viability. The probability of material degradation and failure in SOFCs depends strongly on the local temperature gradients at the interfaces of different materials. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to accurately predict and manage the temperature fields within the stack, especially near the interfaces. In this work we consider three effects in detail. First, we analyze radiative heat transfer effects within the semi-transparent solid electrolyte and compared them to thermal conduction. We also, present the modeling approach for calculation of surface-to-surface exchange within the flow channels and from the stack to the environment. The simplifying assumptions are identified and their carefully justified range of applicability to the problem at hand is established. This allows thermal radiation effects to be properly included in overall thermal modeling efforts with the minimum computational expense requirement. Second, we developed a series of reduced-order models for the transient heating and cooling of a cell, leading to a framework for optimization of these processes. The optimal design is one that minimizes heating time while maintaining thermal gradients below an allowable threshold. To this end, we formulated reduced order models (validated by rigorous CFD simulations) that yield simple algebraic design rules for predicting maximum thermal gradients and heating time requirements. Several governing dimensionless parameters and time scales were identified that shed light on the essential physics of the process. Finally, an analysis was performed to assess the degree of local thermal non-equilibrium (LTNE) within porous SOFC electrodes, and through a simple scaling analysis we discovered the parameter that gives an estimate of the magnitude of LTNE effects. We conclude that because of efficient heat transfer between the solid and gas in the microscale pores of the electrodes, the temperature difference between gas and solid is often negligible. However, if local variations in current density are significant, the LTNE effects may become significant and should be considered.
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