The drive for fuel cell technology research and development stems from cleanliness of the technology, high chemical to electrical conversion efficiency and versatile applications ranging from large-scale, stand-alone stationary power plant to modular distributed generation systems to advanced mobile auxiliary power units. Portable systems and those that can be carried are also currently being designed for civilian and military markets. Fuel cells are capable of generating electricity with virtually negligible to zero pollution (e.g. SOx, NOx, volatile organic compounds (VOC), particulate matters (PMs)). They also offer a reduced carbon footprint and have the potential to be engineered for 'zero carbon' systems. Despite the potential to meet the pressing needs for clean and efficient fuel cell-based power generation systems, high capital and maintenance cost remains a challenge for large-scale commercialisation and global market entry.Solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) is one of the most promising fuel cell technologies as it offers significantly higher electrical efficiency as well as co-production of high-quality process heat. The system lifetime, its reliability and cost, however, remain a concern due to the performance degradation with time, commonly associated with the instability of materials in complex operating environment and high exposure temperature (650-1000)°C. New materials, systems design and operating conditions are being developed to increase the lifetime. Centralised and distributed SOFC power systems in the range of hundreds of kilowatt to megawatt are being considered for integration with advanced coal power plants, hybrid systems integrated with energy storage and carbon-capture technologies to fully exploit the commercial potential. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.