Clean Energy from wastewater using fuel cells

Title of the research project

DEMOSOFC: DEMOnstration of large SOFC systems fed with biogas from WWTP

Scientific area 

Energy, Sustainability, Fuel cells


The project aims to design, install and operate the largest European biogas-fed Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) plant in Torino (Italy), exploiting the produced gas in a wastewater treatment plant managed by SMAT – Società Metropolitana Acque Torino – one of the project’s partner. The DEMOSOFC plant will be the first industrial-size example in EU of a high-efficiency cogeneration plant with an SOFC system fed by biogas.

Description of the research project 

DEMOSOFC involves the design and installation of a biogas fed fuel cell system, using the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) technology. Three modules will be installed, able to produce, in cogeneration mode, 175 kW electrical and 90 kW thermal, with a 53% electrical efficiency.

The system will be installed in the SMAT Collegno waste water treatment plant (Turin), where currently biogas is produced from the anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge. The fuel cell system will guarantee the supply of around 30% of the electrical needs of the site (currently covered by the grid) and 100% of the thermal needs.

The DEMOSOFC plant will be the first example in Europe of a high-efficiency cogeneration plant with an SOFC system of an industrial size fed by biogas.

European Union finances the project with 4.2 million euro in the framework of the Horizon 2020 program, in the platform FCH-JU (Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking).

The project represents a clean best practice of biogas energy exploitation through anaerobic digestion of urban waste water. The environmental achievements will also be fundamental, as the fuel cell has near zero emissions.

Impact on society 

Innovation in the distributed CHP concept: the DEMO is exactly a system working in the paradigm of distributed power technologies with high efficiency and low carbon emissions.

Innovation in the energy security concept: diversification of the primary energy mix through the adoption of local sustainable fuels (biogas in the proposal), with local consumption of the electrical and thermal production.

Innovation in the best use of sustainable fuels (renewable fuels such as biogas): the highest efficiency of an SOFC system assures a dramatic reduction of CO2 emissions if compared to the competing technologies.

Working group @Polito 

Massimo Santarelli, Full Professor Project Coordinator

Andrea Lanzini, Assistant Professor

Marta Gandiglio, PhD student

Claudia Sibilla, Administrative coordinator

Davide Papurello, Post-doc researcher

Davide Drago, PhD Student

Alicia Soto, PhD student 

National and International partners 

SMAT, Società Metropolitana Acque Torino S.p.A, Italy

Convion Ltd., Finland

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, Finland

Imperial college, United Kingdom

 DEMOSOFC project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 671470

  • Budget: 5.900.000 euro
  • Start date: 1/09/2015
  • End date: 31/08/2020