Mike Tucker’s lab develops electrochemical devices at all stages from inception to product prototyping. Lab research activities focus on resource-efficient development of new devices and concepts, with a clear focus on the critical development path towards commercialization. In-situ electrochemical testing, advanced diagnostics, and post-mortem analysis are used to determine limitations to cell performance and lifetime and inform efforts to improve device performance metrics, cost, and manufacturability. Much of our research is sponsored by or in collaboration with industrial partners.
In addition to hands-on technical R&D, Mike’s entrepreneurial activities are also focused on moving technology out of the Lab and into the marketplace. He has authored many patents, co-founded a start-up company, and led Customer Discovery efforts for various Lab technology teams. More information about Mike Tucker's research can be found on his research webpage.
Current Technical Focus Areas
SOFC: Metal-supported solid oxide fuel cells (MS-SOFCs) contain thin electrolyte and active ceramic layers supported between porous stainless steel layers that provide mechanical strength and electronic current collection. The symmetric-architecture MS-SOFC design developed at LBNL provides cost and operational advantages including: mechanical ruggedness; tolerance to rapid thermal cycling; ability to change operating temperature in response to dynamic load requirements; and, tolerance to oxidation of the fuel catalyst. We are developing MS-SOFCs for applications that require fast-start or intermittent operation, such as personal power generators, residential backup generators, and vehicle range extenders. The focus of research is on cell performance, utilization of hydrocarbon fuels, and scale-up to commercially-relevant cell size.
SOEC: Electrolysis uses electricity to drive the efficient conversion of steam, carbon dioxide, etc. to produce hydrogen or other valuable chemicals. We are developing proton-conducting an oxide-conducting metal-supported solid oxide electrolysis cells (MS-SOECs). The vision is to enable utilization of intermittent resources, such as wind- and solar-derived electricity, that may cause rapid temperature fluctuations in the SOEC device. The focus of research is on device fabrication, performance improvement, and identification and mitigation of degradation phenomena.
Oxidation Studies: Metallic components of SOFC/SOEC systems oxidize at high temperature during operation. Oxide scale growth degrades system performance, by increasing the electrical resistance of the device, and ultimately by causing mechanical failure of the interface between metallic and adjacent components. We characterize formation of oxide scales in various temperature and atmosphere conditions relevant to SOFC/SOEC operation. The use of coatings to suppress oxide formation is evaluated by monitoring weight gain and resistance during oxidation, and by careful post-mortem analysis.
Solid State Batteries: Solid state batteries (SSB) promise higher energy density and safer failure modes compared to conventional Li-ion battery technology. We are developing scalable processing approaches to fabricate SSB electrolyte, electrode, and cell structures using LLZO ceramic powder. These include tape-casting, innovative sintering techniques, and high-throughput processes for producing highly porous LLZO scaffolds. Ultimately, the porous electrodes are filled with active materials to complete the cell. Various diagnostic techniques are used to characterize the interaction between adjacent cell components.
For a summary of previous research projects, please see Mike Tucker’s page.
Point Source Power: PSP was spun out of LBNL to commercialize metal-supported SOFC personal power products for the millions of developing world households that cook with charcoal. Mike was co-Founder and CTO, and had responsibilities in cell development, product development, and prototyping for field trials.
Customer Discovery: Following the Lean Startup approach to developing product-market fit, Mike has helped various technical teams refine their value proposition with customer interviews, ecosystem mapping, business model canvas generation, and Customer Discovery strategy.
Recent Honors and Awards
LBNL Director’s Award for Exceptional Achievement in Technology Transfer
R&D 100 Award for Point Source Power’s VOTO product
ProtoLabs “Cool Idea” Award for VOTO product
Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, Clean Technology Innovation 1st Prize
Tech Transfer Award: Michael Tucker - November 18th 2021
For persistent efforts in IP development, commercialization activities, industrial collaboration and technology transfer that generated significant engagement and interest from industry, culminating in multiple companies successfully scaling up LBNL’s solid-oxide fuel-cell technology.
Top Article of the Year in "Energy Technology" - March 15th 2019
"Metal‐Supported Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell with Significantly Enhanced Catalysis," published in 2019 in Energy Technology, has been named one of the top articles of the year by the editorial office of the journal.
2016 Director's Award for Exceptional Achievement: Technology Transfer - September 12th 2016
In recognition of his efforts to develop industrially-relevant technology and transfer it out of Berkeley Lab for commercialization, and his recent leadership in fostering entrepreneurial mindset and skills among Berkeley Lab researchers.
2013 R&D 100 - July 09th 2013
Point Source Power and Berkeley Lab won an R&D 100 award for the company’s Voto product. The innovative device is based on a solid oxide fuel cell that is powered by burning charcoal, wood or other types of biomass—even cow dung—the types of fuel that many in the developing world use for cooking. The fuel cell sits in the fire and is attached to circuitry in a handle that is charged as the fuel cell heats up to temperatures of 700 to 800 degrees Celsius. The handle, which contains an LED bulb, can then be detached and used for lighting or to charge a phone.
Michael Tucker, a member of the development team, is in the Electrochemical Technologies Group of EETD's Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Department. Craig Jacobson, CEO and co-founder of Point Source Power, based in Alameda, California, co-invented the fuel cell in his 13 years as a materials scientist at Berkeley Lab. Working with Steve Visco, Tucker and Lutgard DeJonghe, their breakthrough was in finding a way to replace most of the ceramics in the fuel cell with stainless steel, a far cheaper and more durable material. Jacobsen, Visco, and DeJonghe are all affiliated with the Materials Sciences Division of BerkeleyLab.