Development and characterization of materials for intermediate temperature solid oxide fuel cell anodes
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Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) are devices capable of directly converting chemical energy into electrical energy through high temperature electrochemical oxidation of fuels, but there remain serious obstacles before these devices can be fully implemented into the modern energy infrastructure. The operation of SOFCs with hydrocarbon fuels has the highest potential for commercial impact, but the activity of state-of-the-art materials toward these fuels is relatively low compared to hydrogen, and SOFCs can quickly degrade due to the deposition of solid carbon (coking). Lowering SOFC operating temperatures to less than 600 °C would expand the application of SOFCs while dramatically reducing system complexity and cost, but device performance at these temperatures remains prohibitively low. To address these obstacles, this work focuses on two key issues in SOFC technology development: improvement of SOFC materials and advancement of SOFC characterization techniques. First, a high performing SOFC was designed and demonstrated, uniquely suited for low temperature direct methane operation through the addition of an internal reforming catalyst layer. In situ spectroscopy was used extensively to evaluate the defect and surface structure of the reforming catalyst, directly relating the material structure to device performance. The second issue was addressed through the development of a novel testing platform for quantitative comparison of different anode surface coatings, as well as the design and fabrication of new operando equipment which increases the current testing capability of the SOFC community.