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X-ray and electrochemical studies on solid Oxide fuel cells and related materials


Solid oxide fuel cells will have an important place in future environmentally friendly and efficient energy supply chain. Successful introduction of fuel cell technology to the market requires increased lifetime and improved performance of fuel cells. The current limited lifetime of solid oxide fuel cells appears to be caused by poisoning effects, in particular due to chromium from steel interconnects which is used in fuel cell technology, and due to sulphur impurities in the fuel. The interaction of the fu el cell components like air electrode, fuel electrode, electrolyte and interconnects, is poorly understood on an atomistic or molecular level. More comprehensive knowledge on the processes that take place in fuel cell materials during operation will aid in the design of better fuel cell components.

One promising route to address these issues is to characterize the components with electrochemical and with X-ray techniques. This combination has successfully been applied in lithium ion battery research, but was not applied so far to high temperature solid state electrochemical systems such as solid oxide fuel cells and other high temperature electrochemical devices, such as sensors. This proposal is about the utilization of state-of-the-art synchrotron radiation facilities and techniques in connection with electrochemical experiments. The combination of electrochemical and synchrotron techniques will help understand mechanisms that limit the lifetime and performance of fuel cells. X-ray spectroscopy and scattering at synchrotrons allow to online monitor chemical reactions and structural transformations that take place during fuel cell operation. Knowledge on the oxidation state changes of the transition metals, for instance, is important information which can be measured with X-ray spectroscopy and directly linked to crystal lattice instabilities and subsequent phase transformations, which ultimately cause ageing, fatigue, and failure of fuel cells.

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