Control of structure, strain and chemistry: a route to designer fuel cell interfaces

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Materials

Abstract

A fuel cell consists of three primary components: the air electrode, fuel electrode and ion transport electrolyte. The function of these components is primarily to carry current, reduce oxygen and oxidise a fuel. As these devices are typically constructed using traditional manufacturing techniques there is little control of the atomic scale processes that occur at the interfaces between each of these components. As the electrochemistry that controls the fuel cell operation is correlated with the structure and strain at the interfaces between the components and with the electrode/environment interfaces, a clear understadning of these processes at the atomic scale is essential if optimised, high performacne, low cost fuel cells are to be produced. In this work we will use a complementary suite of advanced techniques, including X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Low energy ion scattering and crystal truncation rods to probe the structure of the interfaces, including buried interfaces, and link this with surface chemistry and fuel cell performance. Once these key factors are understood we will apply this knowledge to the design and manufacture of 2D and 3D electrode structures. We will engage with our international partners to complement the work undertaken at imperial and test devices with our industrial partner, AFC Energy.

Planned Impact

This project will be embedded in the H2FCSupergen hub that includes several leading fuel cell companies (CeresPower, Intelligent Energy and Johnston Matthey) thus ensuring that the project team have excellent opportunities to maximise the commercial impact of this research. The outputs from the collaboration will help establish a strong UK business opportunity centred on the design, manufacture and utilisation of an emerging and highly versatile fuel cell technology. This would contribute to the growing global fuel cell and hydrogen energy market which is projected to be worth over $15 billion by 2017, increasing to $180 billion in 2050. Additionally, it has been suggested that revenues in this sector will grow at a rate of 26% annually over the next decade. A more optimistic study has suggested that the global fuel cell vehicle market would grow to $261bn a year by 2050 with the UK market worth approximately $4bn a year.

As well as the direct economic impact of this work, there will be further academic impact, with the research team contributing to the scientific literature through high impact publications and presentations at many international conferences, such as the Materials Research Symposia, Electrochemcial Society meetings etc.

A key aspect of our programme is the interaction with Diamond Light Source, making full use of this internationally leading facility, and highlighting new approaches to the science that can be undertaken, with advances in surface science that will be applied to a raft of technologies. We will also provide traing for three postdoctoral reaserchers who we would expect to go on to become research leaders in their field, providing direction to this research area, whilst developing future directions. These researchers will aslo engage in training, through collaboration with the CDTs, with the next generation of researchers, providing clear pathways to secure the future of ths research area in the UK.

We will be fully engaged with the H2FCSupergen hub, participating in events and providing regular updates on our progress, and demonstrating advances to industrial partners, both of teh project and of the hub.

Intellectual property will be fully protected through discussion with Imperial Innovations, a subsiduary of Imperial College responsible for technology transfer, and patents filed where appropriate. In terms of the manufacturing aspects of this work we will explore any opportunities to spin-out companies to further develop the technology used in this project.

Publications

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Cavallaro A (2018) Amorphous-cathode-route towards low temperature SOFC in Sustainable Energy & Fuels

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Li C (2017) Surface Chemistry of LaSrNbO and Its Implication for Proton Conduction. in ACS applied materials & interfaces

 
Description During the initial funding period we have developed techniques to characterise the surface structure of oxides and correlate this with the surface chemistry using two complementary techniques. The first uses a synchrotron diffraction beamline whilst the second uses ion beams to investigate the outermost atomic surfaces. As a first stage we have determined the full outer structure and termination of LaAlO3 single crystals, and have investigated the interface between this and a double perovskite cathode. The initial work has been published, and our continuing work on this system is now focussed on the development of in-situ measurements. We have identified how challenging these measurements are and are in the process of developing a suitable stage to enable the direct in-situ analysis of layered samples. Additional we have developed our understanding of amorphous materials and demonstrated the potential of this type of electrode, leading to new insights in terms of ion transport in oxide materials.
Exploitation Route The findings are of relevance to a number of sectors and may influence the work of those involved in two dimensional electron gases. The characterisation techniques will be of wide significance and the development of in-situ protocols at Diamond will be useful for a number of beamline users.
Sectors Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description The work undertaken has been has developed further understanding of key materials processes in the energy field and has led to discussion with a range of new potential project partners at international institutions and industries. We have also hosted researchers from abroad and provided training in a range of novel techniques that will enhance future interactions and provide for knowledge transfer. As we have sent staff to collaborators this also included knowledge transfer to our staff, enhancing their employability. The international exchanges support development of cultural understanding and development of research ethics training.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Energy
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
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-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 Strategic equipment grant
Amount £1,725,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P029914/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2020
 
Description Collaboration with Diamond Light Source 
Organisation Diamond Light Source
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Diamond Light Source is a partner in this award and the contribution of the organisation has been invaluable in developing papers and proposals, and in analysing data.
Collaborator Contribution Input into running experiments, developing proposals, analysing data and writing papers.
Impact One paper currently in press. Others to follow.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Invited Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited to deliver a seminar at ICMC Bordeaux
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited Seminar - UNIST Koreas 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Research seminar and promotion of work undertaken at imperial college. Potential future collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited Talk - CIMTEC 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk entitled "Development and in-situ characterisation of fast ion conductors for SOFCs" at International conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited Talk - CONICET Buenos Aries 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk at a CONICET - Royal Society Workshop held in Buenos Aries. Title of talk was "Probing the structure and chemistry of buried interfaces in energy materials" Led to a new collaboration being established with Dr Lilian Mogni at CNEA Bariloche and funding from the Royal Society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited Talk - Huake Fuel Cell Seminar Wuhan 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk entitled "Development of layered perovskite cathodes as effective mixed conducting electrodes"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited Talk - Nanjing University of Technology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited Talk entitled "Investigating surfaces and interfaces in solid oxide fuel cell materials". Led to discussions regarding adjunct faculty positions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited seminar at Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited seminar given on the topic "Investigating surfaces and interfaces in electroceramic materials: challenges and opportunities"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited talk - EMRS 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk entitled "Probing the structure and chemistry of buried interfaces in fuel cell electrodes"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
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 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