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Eric Wachsman been working with solid oxide fuel cells for nearly three decades and not just on the science and technology side. Wachsman also closely follows and writes on governmental policies insofar as these policies affect the development and deployment of SOFCs.

In this video—an invited talk at the recent ICACC’13 (37th International Conference & Exposition on Advanced Ceramics and Composites in Daytona Beach)—Wachsman covers the ebbs and flows of the government’s interest in fuel cells, and suggests that SOFCs aren’t getting nearly the attention they deserve. While generally noting that SOFCs are an enabling technology that can cover a spectrum both of large and small-scale applications, he goes on to explain the technology has a key distinction: It is the only technology capable of addressing all six of the fundamental strategies delineated in the DOE’s First Quadrennial Technology Review:

  • Vehicle Efficiency;
  • Vehicle Electrification;
  • Alternative Hydrocarbon Fuels;
  • Building and Industrial Efficiency;
  • Grid Modernization; and
  • Clean Power.

Nevertheless, he notes, DOE has de-emphasized SOFC R&D work or pushed it aside in favor of a narrow set of PEM fuel cell applications. The bottom line is that that SOFC development lacks the funding and focus it deserves, regardless of whether the interest is on traditional fuel sources or ones based on a new hydrogen infrastructure. In particular, he argues for a shift in emphasis from stationary SOFC applications to low-temperature SOFCs in the transportation sector—something, he says, that is crucial if SOFC R&D funding is to survive.