Thermo-mechanical stress in tubular solid oxide fuel cells: Part I - transient operating behaviour and the relevance of material creep
Journal article, 2012
A spatially discretised thermo-electrochemical model is developed to calculate the temperature distribution in a tubular solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). Model validation is accomplished based on the operating data from a demonstration plant. Using a mechanical model of the ceramic membrane-electrode assembly, the distribution of thermo-mechanical stress is calculated from the temperature profile. The resulting risk of fracture failure, being one of the crucial life-limiting factors of SOFC, is determined by means of Weibull analysis. The methodology and results are presented in two parts: Part I covers the dynamic operating properties of the SOFC and the time scale of material creep in its ceramic components. Part II deals with the risk of fracture failure related to transient operating scenarios, discusses its dependency on the operating conditions and derives a low-risk operating strategy. The dynamic operating behaviour is found to be dominated by the large thermal inertia of the solid cell components. An analysis of the creep relaxation indicates a significant relief of mechanical stress in the electrodes within a few hours of operation. This justifies a novel assumption regarding the stress-free state in the mechanical analysis of the fuel cell, which significantly increases the plausibility of the resulting risk of fracture failure.