Multiscale in-situ characterisation of degradation and reactivity in solid oxide fuel cells

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Materials

Abstract

As alternative and low carbon energy technologies are of increasing international importance there is considerable debate as to the most appropriate technology solutions for power generation. For a distrubted generation scenario with power output in the range of kW to MW the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) is a leading contender, with development undertaken by many international companies. One of the areas of concern with new technologies is the lifetime of the device and as SOFCs operate at elevated temperatures any degradation of components may be accelerated. Due to the complexity of these devices there has been limited scope to analyse the operation of the SOFC in-situ, and from this determine mechanistic information on degradation processes. It is the aim of this proposal to tackle this challenge.Degradation and reactivity of solid oxide fuel cells may be characterised by processes occuring on a variety of length scales, from chemical reactivity and diffusion processes on the atomic scale through surface chemsitry, stress in functional layers and thermal management over mm and cm. Each of the processes contributes to the overall cell degradation, but may evolve differently depending on the functional component concerned - hence anode and cathode processes will be significantly different. As these are complex devices characterising these processes and the origin of them is challenging and currently results from post-mortem analysis. Whilst this is one route to understanding the failure of devices, an in-situ characterisation under operating conditions will provide detailed direct understanding. Our approach is to develop a combination of complimentary techniques that will allow detailed study of device operation using diffraction, spectroscopy, ion scattering, modelling and emissivity measurements. We will tackle known degradation issues in fuel cells including carbonate and Cr poisoning of cathodes, carbon formation on anodes and electrode delamination and will interact strongly with the UK Supergen Fuel Cells programme. As a result of this programme we will be able to inform industrial partners of mitigation strategies to minimise device degradation and use this information in development of new materials.

Planned Impact

In this project our aim is to develop robust in-situ methods for the characterisation and testing of intermediate temperature solid oxide fuel cells with the overall objective of understanding degradation mechanisms. As discussed in the proposal degradation of fuel cell components is an issue of immense significance to commercial developers of fuel cells and hence the advances resulting from this project are likely to impact upon fuel cell development and commercialisation worldwide. Of course with the current requirement to produce energy with low carbon emissions and environmental impact, any advances in understanding of processes that will ultimately accelerate deployment of low carbon energy production will be welcomed. The international interest in this work is highlighted by the support from groups around Europe, the US and also from fuel cell developers. We also note that this crucial work supports the UK national fuel cells programme (Supergen -www.supergenfuelcells.co.uk) in which all of the investigators are participants, and addresses an aspect which is not part of the research programme. Supergen also includes a number of fuel cell companies thus ensuring that the project team have excellent opportunities to maximise the impact of this research. To ensure that the project is successful the project team will meet regularly (at least every 6 months) and will be integrated within the national fuel cells programme, ensuring significant input from the commercial sector.It is our view that the work proposed in this proposal could have significant commercial impact and we will ensure that the necessary intellectual property (IP) is protected by patents, filed through the appropriate technology transfer office of the academic partner institutions. At Imperial College this will be Imperial Innovations who have considerable experience across many technology sectors including in fuel cell technology. St Andrews, UCL and Newcastle have analogous bodies. In cases where the research activities are collaborations across two or more institutions agreements regarding exploitation of any IP generated will be produced prior to the start of the project. Within the project team there are several investigators with a track record of development and exploitation of IP (Profs. Brandon, Kilner & Irvine) and jointly they will be responsible for ensuring that an appropriate IP strategy is followed. Each of these investigators have founded and developed a fuel cell company, with Brandon and Kilner forming Ceres Power, now a ~£60M Imperial spin out company. Once IP is protected we will engage in discussions with potential industry partners under appropriate non-disclosure agreements ensuring that all IP is appropriately protected. We will endeavour to ensure that the project team (Imperial, UCL, Newcastle and St Andrews) will be in a position to exploit the research results and innovations through the respective technology transfer offices and partnership(s) with companies and/or their supply chain. After any patent filing, the non-confidential outputs from the project will be widely disseminated via peer reviewed publication, presentations at major international conferences such as Solid State Ionics, Grove Fuel Cell Symposium, Materials Research Society Symposia, Electrochemical Society Meetings (e.g. SOFC XII) and the UK Fuel Cell and Hydrogen network of which Imperial is an active participant.

Publications

10 25 50

 
Description New insights have been gained into the processes by which solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) degrade during operation, and a combination of new techniques and collaborations developed to utilise these findings. New software has been developed to fit diffusion data, and the application of ion beam techniques to characterise surface chemistry implemented. Additional combined spectroscopy and diffraction measurements have been developed for operating SOFCs, as well as tomographic approaches to probe the microstructure of tubular cells.
Exploitation Route Techniques are currently being used by CeresPower who are now partners in an Impact Acceleration project hosted at Imperial, and who are also employing a graduated researcher part-time. CeresPower are also supporting a further successful Platform grant application. One of the major findings has been in the development of the TraceX software package for analysis of isotopic exchange data. This has been made available to the academic community. It has been adopted as the standard for fitting diffusion data and has received considerable international interest. It also allowed, for the first time, the analysis of back-diffusion data.
Sectors Energy

 
Description PhD student (Cooper) was embedded with industry (Cerespower) to transfer knowledge directly to them. Second PhD student (Niania) has engaged with Cerespower through a PtI award - new insights developed are aiding the company to accelerate commercialisation. A further PtI award with Ceres resulted from our surface studies of oxides and these interactions have led to further engagement with Cerespower and they are now looking to co-sponsor two new PhD students, one co-funded with a Centre for Doctoral Training and one as a CASE award. Subsequent discussions with the sponsor have led to their support for a new Centre for Doctoral training application (2018) and their complete sponsorship of a PhD student, rather than co-funding (2018).
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Energy
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Armourers and Brasiers PhD Travel Award
Amount £750 (GBP)
Organisation Armourers & Brasiers 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start  
 
Description EPSRC Pathways to Impact
Amount £67,162 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2015 
End 10/2016
 
Description EPSRC Pathways to Impact
Amount £65,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2016 
End 04/2017
 
Description EPSRC Platform Grant
Amount £1,304,889 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R002010/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 09/2022
 
Description EPSRC Responsive
Amount £1,076,043 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M01412/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2015 
End 03/2019
 
Description EPSRC-JSPS Core to Core
Amount £1,001,181 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P026478/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2017 
End 07/2022
 
Description Imperial College Junior Research Fellowship - Dr Na Ni
Amount £150,000 (GBP)
Organisation Imperial College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2014 
End 08/2017
 
Description Marie Curie Scheme
Amount £160,000 (GBP)
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 04/2017 
End 04/2019
 
Description STFC Early Career Grant
Amount £250 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start  
 
Title TauFactor 
Description A Matlab application to efficiently calculate tortuosity factors form Image data. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The app has been downloaded and the publication relating to it cited 41 times, 
URL https://sourceforge.net/projects/taufactor/
 
Title TraceX software 
Description A new Matlab routine to fit isotopic exchange data, including back diffusion. Specifically developed to use time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry data. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Several papers produced using this technique, plus formed significant part of PhD thesis. Also paper in progress describing the methods, as well as having presented this at an international conference. 
URL https://sourceforge.net/projects/trace-x/
 
Description Double perovskites - Mona 
Organisation University of Rennes 1
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration on neutron scattering studies - staffed the beam time
Collaborator Contribution Partner provided samples and attended the beamtime.
Impact Open access paper published and further works in progress.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Environmental SEM 
Organisation Marcoule Institute for Separative Chemistry (ICSM)
Country France 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Provided samples, student visited, drafted paper and presented work at conference
Collaborator Contribution Provided access to ESEM instrument, assisted with interpretation.
Impact Papers as highlighted in the publications list.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Kyushu University 
Organisation Kyushu University
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Mathew Niania and John Kilner visited the lab in Japan and undertook collaborative research
Collaborator Contribution Partners made staff time available as well as time on the instruments (SIMS/LEIS)
Impact Contribution towards PhD thesis and subsequent papers
Start Year 2014
 
Title TraceX Matlab App 
Description Isotopic exchange data fitting routine for Matlab. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact PhD thesis produced. Paper presented at international conference (Solid State Ionics 20, 2015). Papers using the routines have been published. 
URL https://sourceforge.net/projects/trace-x/
 
Description Interview on use of Latex - Sam Cooper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Short interview given at: https://www.overleaf.com/blog/189-writelatex-author-interview-sam-cooper-imperial-college-london#.VthMkCgnwdU
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://www.overleaf.com/blog/189-writelatex-author-interview-sam-cooper-imperial-college-london#.Vt...
 
Description Invited workshop speaker 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Engaged as an international speaker in a NSF funded US-Africa workshop, highlighting and presenting opportunities to researchers in Africa (Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya etc) to partner with US and European researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://juami.ms.northwestern.edu/index.html
 
Description Sam Cooper - 3 minute thesis competition 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Dissemination of the content of a tomography PhD thesis
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtroaG3xuAA
 
Description Schools outreach visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Invited to participate in a schools science event
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016