Jiefeng Lin


Rising concerns of inadequate petroleum supply, volatile crude oil price, and adverse environmental impacts from using fossil fuels have spurred the United States to promote bio-fuel domestic production and develop advanced energy systems such as fuel cells. The present dissertation analyzed the bio-fuel applications in a solid oxide fuel cell-based auxiliary power unit from environmental, economic, and technological perspectives. Life cycle assessment integrated with thermodynamics was applied to evaluate the environmental impacts (e.g., greenhouse gas emission, fossil energy consumption) of producing bio-fuels from waste biomass. Landfill gas from municipal solid wastes and biodiesel from waste cooking oil are both suggested as the promising bio-fuel options. A nonlinear optimization model was developed with a multi-objective optimization technique to analyze the economic aspect of biodiesel-ethanol-diesel ternary blends used in transportation sectors and capture the dynamic variables affecting bio-fuel productions and applications (e.g., market disturbances, bio-fuel tax credit, policy changes, fuel specification, and technological innovation). A single-tube catalytic reformer with rhodium/ceria-zirconia catalyst was used for autothermal reformation of various heavy hydrocarbon fuels (e.g., diesel, biodiesel, biodiesel-diesel, and biodiesel-ethanol-diesel) to produce a hydrogen-rich stream reformates suitable for use in solid oxide fuel cell systems. A customized mixing chamber was designed and integrated with the reformer to overcome the technical challenges of heavy hydrocarbon reformation. A thermodynamic analysis, based on total Gibbs free energy minimization, was implemented to optimize the operating environment for the reformations of various fuels. This was complimented by experimental investigations of fuel autothermal reformation. 25% biodiesel blended with 10% ethanol and 65% diesel was determined to be viable fuel for use on a truck travelling with diesel engine and truck idling with fuel cell auxiliary power unit system. The customized nozzle used for fuel vaporization and mixing achieved homogenous atomization of input hydrocarbon fuels (e.g., diesel, biodiesel, diesel-biodiesel blend, and biodiesel-ethanol-diesel), and improved the performance of fuel catalytic reformation. Given the same operating condition (reforming temperature, total oxygen content, water input flow, and gas hourly space velocity), the hydrocarbon reforming performance follows the trend of diesel > biodiesel-ethanol-diesel > diesel-biodiesel blend > biodiesel (i.e., diesel catalytic reformation has the highest hydrogen production, lowest risk of carbon formation, and least possibility of hot spot occurrence). These results provide important new insight into the use of bio-fuels and bio-fuel blends as a primary fuel source for solid oxide fuel cell applications.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Solid oxide fuel cells--Equipment and supplies; Biomass energy--Evaluation

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Department, Program, or Center

Sustainability (GIS)


Trabold, Thomas

Advisor/Committee Member

Stiebitz, Paul

Advisor/Committee Member

Nasr, Nabil


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in December 2013. Physical copy available through RIT's The Wallace Library at: TK2933.S65 L46 2013


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