Investigation of electrode surfaces in solid oxide fuel cells using Raman mapping and enhanced spectroscopy techniques
Blinn, Kevin Scott
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Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) represent a much cleaner and more efficient method for harnessing fossil fuel energy than conventional combustion; however, the challenge with making SOFCs mainstream lies in reducing operating costs and staving off their rapid degradation. High cathode polarization remains a bottleneck for lowering operation temperature. On the anode side, supplying SOFCs with hydrocarbon-based fuels poses many problems for systems using state-of-the-art material specifications such as composites of Ni and yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ). Various novel materials and surface modifications have been found to mitigate these problems, but more information towards a more profound understanding the role of these materials is desired. In this work, advanced Raman spectroscopic techniques were applied toward this end. Raman spectroscopy was used for the tracking of the evolution of water, carbon, sulfur, and oxygen species as well as new phases at SOFC electrode surfaces following or during exposure to various temperatures, atmospheres, and electrochemical stimuli. This information, coupled with performance data and other characterizations, would help to clarify the mechanisms of anode contamination reactions and oxygen reduction reactions. Knowledge gained from this work would also help to connect electrode modifications with performance enhancement and poisoning tolerance, offering insights vital to design of better electrodes. In addition, lack of adequate Raman signal from certain species, which is one of Raman spectroscopy’s limitations, was addressed. Surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) techniques were used in both in situ and ex situ analyses to increase signal yield from gas species and phases that are found only in trace amounts on electrode surfaces. Finally, a more practical thrust of this work was the application of this study methodology and the knowledge gained from it to cells with NASA's bielectrode supported cell (BSC) architecture. These types of cells also offer great prospects for superior specific power density due to their low weight. Ultimately, the goal of this thrust was progress towards achieving optimum performance of SOFCs operating under hydrocarbon fuels.