Hybrid direct carbon fuel cells and their reaction mechanisms - a review

Lisa Deleebeeck, Kent Kammer Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


As coal is expected to continue to dominate power generation demands worldwide, it is advisable to pursue the development of more efficient coal power generation technologies. Fuel cells show a much higher fuel utilization efficiency, emit fewer pollutants (NOx, SOx), and are more easily combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) due to the high purity of CO2 emitted in the exhaust gas. Direct carbon (or coal) fuel cells (DCFCs) are directly fed with solid carbon to the anode chamber. The fuel cell converts the carbon at the anode and the oxygen at the cathode into electricity, heat and reaction products. The use of an external gasifier and a fuel cell operating on syngas (e.g. integrated gasification fuel cells) is briefly discussed for comparative purposes. Awide array of DCFC types have been investigated over the last 20 years. Here, the diversity of pre-commercialization DCFC research efforts is discussed on the fuel cell stack and system levels. The range of DCFC types can be roughly broken down into four fuel cell types: aqueous hydroxide, molten hydroxide, molten carbonate and solid oxide fuel cells. Emphasis is placed on the electrochemical reactions occurring at the anode and the proposed mechanism(s) of these reactions for molten carbonate, solid oxide and hybrid direct carbon fuel cells. Additionally, the criteria of choosing the ‘best’ DCFC technology is explored, including system design (continuous supply of solid fuel), performance (power density, efficiency), environmental burden (fresh water consumed, solid waste produced, CO2 emitted, ease of combination with CCS) and economics (levelized cost of electricity).
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Solid State Electrochemistry
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)861-882
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Coal
  • Fuel cell
  • Reaction mechanism
  • Electrochemical oxidation
  • Gasification
  • MCFC
  • SOFC


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