Ceria-based nanocomposite electrolyte for low-temperature solid oxide fuel cells

Author: Ying Ma; Mamoun Muhammed; Peter Lund; Kth; []

Keywords: ;

Abstract: Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) have attracted much attention because of their potential of providing an efficient, environmentally benign, and fuel-flexible power generation system for both small power units and for large scale power plants. However, conventional SOFCs with yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) electrolyte require high operation temperature (800-1000°C), which presents material degradation problems, as well as other technological complications and economic obstacles. Therefore, numerous efforts have been made to lower the operating temperature of SOFCs. The discovery of new electrolytes for low-temperature SOFCs (LTSOFCs) is a grand challenge for the SOFC community.  Nanostructured materials have attracted great interest for many different applications, due to their unusual or enhanced properties compared with bulk materials. As an example of enhanced property of nanomaterials, the enhancement of ionic conductivity in the nanostructured solid conductors, known as “nanoionics”, recently become one of the hottest fields of research related to nanomaterials, since they can be used in advanced energy conversion and storage applications, such as SOFC. So in this thesis, we are aiming at developing a novel nanocomposite approach to design and fabricate ceria-based composite electrolytes for LTSOFC. We studied two ceria-based nanocomposite systems with different SDC morphologies.  In the first part of the thesis, novel core-shell SDC/amorphous Na2CO3 nanocomposite was fabricated for the first time. The core-shell nanocomposite particles are smaller than 100 nm with amorphous Na2CO3 shell of 4~6 nm in thickness. The nanocomposite electrolyte shows superionic conductivity above 300 °C, where the conductivity reaches over 0.1 S cm-1. The thermal stability of such nanocomposite has also been studied based on careful XRD, BET, SEM and TGA characterization after annealing samples at various temperatures, which indicated that the SDC/Na2CO3 nanocomposite possesses better thermal stability on nanostructure than pure SDC. Such nanocomposite was applied in LTSOFCs with an excellent performance of 0.8 W cm-2 at 550 °C. The high performances together with notable thermal stability make the SDC/Na2CO3 nanocomposite as a potential electrolyte material for long-term SOFCs that operate at 500-600 °C. In the second part of the thesis, we report a novel chemical synthetic route for the synthesis of samarium doped ceria (SDC) nanowires by homogeneous precipitation of lanthanide citrate complex in aqueous solutions as precursor followed by calcination. The method is template-, surfactant-free and can produce large quantities at low costs. To stabilize these SDC nanowires at high operation temperature, we employed the concept of “nanocomposite” by adding a secondary phase of Na2CO3, as inclusion which effectively hindered the grain growth of nanostructures. The SDC nanowires/Na2CO3 composite was compacted and sintered together with electrode materials, and was then tested for SOFCs performance. It is demonstrated that SOFCs using such SDC nanowires/Na2CO3 composite as electrolyte exhibited better performance compared with state-of-the-art SOFCs using conventional bulk ceria-based materials as electrolytes.