German engineering and technology company, Bosch, is showcasing its high-temperature mini-power plants, known as Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs), at the Hanover Fair.
The company claims that its SOFCs can achieve an overall efficiency of 85 to 90% by converting water and oxygen into water and energy at temperatures between 500 and 700 degrees Celsius. Bosch’s SOFCs produce 100 kilowatts of electrical energy and 50 kilowatts of thermal energy, which can be used by end consumers to maximize energy efficiency.
SOFCs are the reverse principle of Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cells (SOECs), which separate water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity at around 850 degrees Celsius. German technology leaders in the sector, such as Sunfire Dresden, achieve efficiencies of around 85% in this direction. However, efficient operation of the plants requires the availability of industrial waste heat for heating.
Bosch’s SOFCs are designed for stationary use, targeting city districts and buildings, industrial and commercial enterprises, data centres, and decentralized energy solutions that depend on secure, emission-free, and decentralized electricity and heat supply with high efficiency. The company is in the pre-industrialization phase, meaning it has not yet progressed beyond pilot plants.
Sunfire’s high-temperature fuel cells, on the other hand, are intended as building blocks for larger plants that produce alternative reducing agents for steel mills or synthetic fuel.
The introduction of SOFCs could significantly impact reducing carbon emissions, especially in industrial and commercial sectors where energy demands are high. However, the technology’s high-temperature requirement poses a challenge in terms of the cost and maintenance of the systems. Furthermore, the availability of industrial waste heat could limit the widespread adoption of SOFCs.
In conclusion, Bosch’s high-temperature fuel cells have the potential to offer a clean and efficient energy solution for stationary use in various sectors. However, further research and development are required to overcome the challenges and ensure the widespread adoption of the technology.