Research Papers

Optimization of an Integrated SOFC-Fuel Processing System for Aircraft Propulsion

[+] Author and Article Information
Thomas E. Brinson

Center for Advanced Power Systems,  Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, FL 32310thomas.brinson@ge.com

Juan C. Ordonez

Department of Mechanical Engineering, FSU Center for Advanced Power Systems,  Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32310

Cesar A. Luongo1

Department of Mechanical Engineering, FSU Center for Advanced Power Systems,  Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32310


Currently with ITER IO, St. Paul-lez Durance, France.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 9(4), 041006 (Jun 15, 2012) (8 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4005587 History: Received August 22, 2011; Revised October 13, 2011; Published June 15, 2012; Online June 15, 2012

As fuel cells continue to improve in performance and power densities levels rise, potential applications ensue. System-level performance modeling tools are needed to further the investigation of future applications. One such application is small-scale aircraft propulsion. Both piloted and unmanned fuel cell aircrafts have been successfully demonstrated suggesting the near-term viability of revolutionizing small-scale aviation. Nearly all of the flight demonstrations and modeling efforts are conducted with low temperature fuel cells; however, the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) should not be overlooked. Attributing to their durability and popularity in stationary applications, which require continuous operation, SOFCs are attractive options for long endurance flights. This study presents the optimization of an integrated solid oxide fuel cell-fuel processing system model for performance evaluation in aircraft propulsion. System parameters corresponding to maximum steady state thermal efficiencies for various flight phase power levels were obtained through implementation of the particle swarm optimization (PSO) algorithm. Optimal values for fuel utilization, air stoichiometric ratio, air bypass ratio, and burner ratio, a four-dimensional optimization problem, were obtained while constraining the SOFC operating temperature to 650–1000 °C. The PSO swarm size was set to 35 particles, and the number of iterations performed for each case flight power level was set at 40. Results indicate the maximum thermal efficiency of the integrated fuel cell-fuel processing system remains in the range of 44–46% throughout descend, loitering, and cruise conditions. This paper discusses a system-level model of an integrated fuel cell-fuel processing system, and presents a methodology for system optimization through the particle swarm algorithm.

Copyright © 2012 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Configuration for the integrated SOFC-FP system

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Figure 2

Representation of the counterflow heat exchanger

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Figure 3

Mixer-reformer control volume

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Figure 4

Representation of heat leakage through the hotbox insulation

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Figure 5

Mixer-SOFC control volume, HB2

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Figure 6

Catalytic burner control volume, HB3

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Figure 8

Accuracy-based surface plot employed to determine PSO parameters

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Figure 9

Speed-based surface plot employed to determine PSO parameters

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Figure 10

Maximum system efficiency for various flight-levels

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Figure 11

Optimum fuel utilization values

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Figure 12

Optimum air ratio values

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Figure 13

Optimum burn ratio values

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Figure 14

Optimum air bypass ratio values

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Figure 15

PSO convergence for first law-based optimizations



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