Fracture Failure of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells
Johnson, Janine B.
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Among all existing fuel cell technologies, the planar solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) is the most promising one for high power density applications. A planar SOFC consists of two porous ceramic layers (the anode and cathode) through which flows the fuel and oxidant. These ceramic layers are bonded to a solid electrolyte layer to form a tri-layer structure called PEN (positive-electrolyte-negative) across which the electrochemical reactions take place to generate electricity. Because SOFCs operate at high temperatures, the cell components (e.g., PEN and seals) are subjected to harsh environments and severe thermomechanical residual stresses. It has been reported repeatedly that, under combined thermomechanical, electrical and chemical driving forces, catastrophic failure often occurs suddenly due to material fracture or loss of adhesion at the material interfaces. Unfortunately, there have been very few thermomechanical modeling techniques that can be used for assessing the reliability and durability of SOFCs. Therefore, modeling techniques and simulation tools applicable to SOFC will need to be developed. Such techniques and tools enable us to analyze new cell designs, evaluate the performance of new materials, virtually simulate new stack configurations, as well as to assess the reliability and durability of stacks in operation. This research focuses on developing computational techniques for modeling fracture failure in SOFCs. The objectives are to investigate the failure modes and failure mechanisms due to fracture, and to develop a finite element based computational method to analyze and simulate fracture and crack growth in SOFCs. By using the commercial finite element software, ANSYS, as the basic computational tool, a MatLab based program has been developed. This MatLab program takes the displacement solutions from ANSYS as input to compute fracture parameters. The individual stress intensity factors are obtained by using the volume integrals in conjunction with the interaction integral technique. The software code developed here is the first of its kind capable of calculating stress intensity factors for three-dimensional cracks of curved front experiencing both mechanical and non-uniform temperature loading conditions. These results provide new scientific and engineering knowledge on SOFC failure, and enable us to analyze the performance, operations, and life characteristics of SOFCs.