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There are many applications of SOFC, as they are used in various industries, and markets to improve the economy of the energy sector. This has made many nations take proactive roles in investing in the technology. For example, the United States government has invested in the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA). This alliance is coordinated by the Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of the country. Their main technical role is to produce and develop mass modular SOFC units of $400/kW that are capable of 3-10 kW. They used the approach of developing industrial collaboration, and extending financial support for further technical research.
Research indicates that SOFC technology is being implemented in many nations across the globe. In addition, the cost of fuel technology in the overall market is expected to be around $95 billion. Although, the market share is unclear, it is significant as it is used mainly in three energy applications that include transportation, military, and stationary energy sources. The stationary sources are power sources that are auxiliary or primary and are used in places such as office buildings, military installations, industrial sites, homes, and ports. In addition, they can be used in mini-power-grid areas of application such as military bases and universities (Singhal 2010).
The demand for SOFC technology is growing in nations with minimal infrastructures and improving economy. This makes the technology ideal for the expected expansion. The SOFCs can be situated on-site; as well as this can be for remote areas. This on-site positioning makes the technology match the power generation of the electrical need of the place. These stationary SOFC will be used predominantly in the future as Siemens Westinghouse has tested examples of the tubular systems that can be used. The tests were a success, and they produced excellent results. An example is a plant in the Netherlands that has operated for two years after the prototype installation. Thermal cycles were over 100, and the minimal voltage degradation of the prototype in the tests was at around 0.1 thousand hours for the fuel cells. Operations of tubular cell plants are expected to be fully embraced in the near future. At the same time, Ceramic Fuel Cells, Ltd, in Australia had fuel cell plants that were operating prototypes since 2001, and they are in the market.
As for the transportation sector, SOFCs can be used in both automobiles and trucks. The diesel trucks can use them as auxiliary power units for driving the electrical systems that can include on-board electronics and air conditioning. This will prevent the units’ overwork at the rest stops by the diesel trucks. Moreover, this leads to reduction in the truck exhaust noise and saving the diesel fuel expenditure. Meanwhile, many automobiles have invested in the fuel cell research with a total cost of about $4.5 billion. Many vehicles around the world have led to this significant investment Singhal (2009). It is also expected that the personal automobiles number will grow significantly in the next years by around 30%. There are also strict environmental limitations for the automobile manufactures to make non-polluting vehicles available in the market. Present time pressures in the European Union and the United States have made the SOFCs be the alternative source of energy. This is due to their inexpensive fuels and availability.
The military also use and have an interest in the SOFCs because; they can be positioned on-site at remote locations. In addition, SOFCs are non-polluting and are quiet. Furthermore, with the use of the SOFCs the military can reduce deployment significantly.
Developments have been made towards the use of solid oxide fuel cell. This has been made possible by the extensive research, material science, commitment to the development of alternative sources of energy and ingenuity. This will make the SOFCs be the alternative energy that is robust and viable. Although, there is significant progress, material science is expected to continue to create more reliable, affordable, and efficient SOFCs. There are still challenges of commercializing SOFCs as to offer power densities with long term durability that requires the reduction of costs of the cells and the power plants. Moreover, other application purposes such as transportation, auxiliary power units with the ability of thermal cycling needs and rapid start-ups need to be further developed.