Since the rise of the environmental movement in the 1970s, scientists have been on a quest for better and more efficient fuel sources, and a shift in thinking about our impact on the world around us.
The scientists have delivered. Cars are more fuel efficient than ever. Cleaner fuel sources have popped up. And some of those new fuels are reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
These innovations are built on other innovations — new materials that make green technologies possible. Quite often, those components are glass. Here’s how glass propels green technology.
A tight seal in fuel cells
Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) offer 95 percent overall efficiency and low emissions, making them a promising energy technology. In most cases, the main byproduct is water.
The challenge has been finding the right materials for the fuel cells. The components need to facilitate the chemical reaction that produces electricity, but have to withstand the extreme temperatures that reaction creates.
On one side of a battery is an anode, and on the other is a cathode. Between them is an electrolyte that oxygen ions pass through. The key to a long-term efficient fuel cell is a gas-tight barrier between the anode and cathode, to prevent any uncontrolled exchange of gas.
This seal between the ceramic and the metallic interconnect must handle temperatures between 600 and 1,000 degrees Celsius, as well as high humidity and the presence of fuel and oxidizing gases.
Glass and glass-ceramic sealants are the materials of choice due to their high heat resistance, chemical stability, and longevity, even in aggressive environments like fuel cells. That not only makes this energy technology possible, but extends its lifespan as well.