Materials For High Temperature Fuel Cell Technology

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Chemistry


This application is a request to renew a platform grant that has provided funding for basic research in the St Andrews' fuel cell programme to further development of the resulting technologies. The work comprises of structural, chemical, thermal and electrochemical characterisation of novel materials relating to a range of important energy technologies. These programmes entail a broad range of approaches from basic atomic scale characterisation through microstructural control and fabrication to device production and testing. A main focus is on understanding the role of microstructure and composition in developing efficient fuel electrodes for utilisation with hydrocarbon containing fuels. We are developing low temperature thin film supported electrolytes and application of such devices for steam electrolysis, with a view to utilising renewable energy to produce hydrogen. New initiatives working on new concepts such as carbon fuel cells and steam electrolysis processes have been successful and are will be further developed in the renewed platform. Other new initiatives such as hydride ion conductors, ammonia fuel cells, photocatalysis using our electrode materials, fuel synthesis and novel cathode concepts have been embarked upon and will be further developed/validated in the renewed platform.This Platform Grant has served as an excellent base on which to build a very active programme of research in fuel cell and related clean energy technologies. It is running in parallel with a series of projects funded by government and industry and has provided a key tool enabling efficient management of such projects. In many cases the start dates have avoided delays of up to one year due to security provided by the Platform Project. To-date 7 researchers have been funded directly by this project, although most of the researchers in the group have benefited at least indirectly from the Platform Project. The Platform Grant has enabled us to create a robust group structure and has greatly strengthened our capability. Publication is running at 15 pa largely in high impact journals including one in Nature.


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Description Some highlights of our activities supported by the Platform grant are nanostructural ripening of impregnated electrodes, in situ exolution of nanocatalysts, very good direct carbon fuel cell performance, a new red metallic photocatalyst and revision of the rolled tubular SOFC design.
Important achievements have been made in the search for new oxide anodes for SOFCs with enhanced capability for hydrocarbon oxidation, with a new perovskite (La,Sr)Mn0.5Cr0.5O3 composition demonstrating real potential application. In collaboration with Gorte and Vohs at UPenn, utilising a YSZ electrode skeleton impregnated with Mn-containing Perovskite oxide, stable operation at 700mWcm-2 in dry methane has been achieved, significantly higher than has been reported previously. This high performance is found to be related to the growth of a fine nanostructure in situ under fuel conditions with the nanostructure reverting to a smooth coating under oxidising conditions.
Surfaces decorated with uniformly dispersed catalytically active nanoparticles play a key role in many fields including renewable energy and catalysis. We have recently demonstrated that the concept of growing nano-size phases from perovskites can be achieved with a wide range of metals and even oxides when the nonstoichiometry of the perovskite and thus its defect chemistry are carefully tailored. The phenomenon is also demonstrated to be strongly influenced by surface reorganisation characteristics. The generality of this approach means that it can be extended to inspire the formulation of new oxide systems and sophisticated materials with advanced functionality.
We have recently developed an important new concept, the Direct Carbon Fuel Cell which leads to the direct utilisation of carbon from biomass and even coal. The DCFC merges Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) and MCFC technologies to form a hybrid direct carbon fuel cell based upon an yttrium-stabilised zirconia electrolyte and the group has now demonstrated commercial level performance (800mWcm-2). Good stability of the zirconia is observed during and after fuel cell testing and in corrosion tests under reducing conditions; however, significant intergrain erosion is observed under oxidising conditions
The series Sr1-xNbO3-d yields cubic perovskites for 0.1
Exploitation Route Further research
Sectors Energy,Environment

Description The operation of the Platform also enabled us to strongly engage with EU and especially industrial funding, see below. In terms of staff development all of the Investigators have advanced their careers significantly, including Tao who moved to a Chair at Strathclyde. Those postdocs working on commercially sensitive projects were able to maintain their publication output via partial platform support and key skill researchers were given stability of contract. Researchers have moved to industry appointments, eg Ceres Power, and to Assistant Professor positions in Korea, India, Saudi Arabia and China.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Energy
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description The invention relates to a method of producing electrode materials for solid oxide cells which comprises applying an electric potential to a metal oxide which has a perovskite crystal structure. The resultant electrode catalyst exhibits excellent electrochemical performance. The invention extends to the electrode catalyst itself, and to electrodes and solid oxide cells comprising the electrode catalyst. 
IP Reference CA3030088 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2018
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact -