As per the US department,
“Fuel cells work like batteries, but they do not run down or need recharging. They produce electricity and heat as long as fuel is supplied. A fuel cell consists of two electrodes – a negative electrode (or anode) and a positive electrode (or cathode) – sandwiched around an electrolyte. A fuel, such as hydrogen, is fed to the anode, and the air is fed to the cathode.”
As released in electrek, MIT researchers were able to increase the device lifetime to store wind or solar energy by changing the “pH” of the system.
“Fuel and electrolysis cells made of materials known as solid metal oxides are of interest because in the electrolysis mode, they are efficient at converting electricity from a clean energy source into a storable fuel like hydrogen that can be used in the fuel cell mode to generate electricity when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. They can also be made without using costly metals like platinum.”
However, it degrades over time.
As per Harry L. Tuller, RP Simmons professor of ceramics and electronic materials in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering:
“So if you can extend the life of the fuel/electrolysis cell by slowing down this process, or ideally reversing it, you could go a long way toward making it practical,”
To achieve this,
“the team coated the fuel/electrolysis cell cathode with lithium oxide, a compound that changes the relative acidity of the surface from being acidic to being more basic.” Electrek.
“After adding a small amount of lithium, we were able to recover the initial performance of a poisoned cell,” said Tuller.
“When the team added even more lithium, the performance improved far beyond the initial value.”
Tuller added, “We saw improvements of three to four orders of magnitude in the key oxygen reduction reaction rate and attribute the change to populating the surface of the electrode with electrons needed to drive the oxygen incorporation reaction.”
Robert Schrecengost, acting director of FECM’s Division of Hydrogen with Carbon Management, said:
“Extending the lifetime of solid oxide fuels cells helps deliver the low-cost, high-efficiency hydrogen production and power generation needed for a clean energy future.
The [DOE] applauds these advancements to mature and ultimately commercialize these technologies so that we can provide clean and reliable energy for the American people.”