(Invited) Impact of Surface Chemistry on the Electrochemical Performance of Perovskite Cathodes

Tuesday, May 13, 2014: 08:40
Jackson, Ground Level (Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek)
M. Backhaus-Ricoult, K. Work, K. Adib (Corning Incorporated), L. Gregoratti, and M. Amati (Synchrotrone ELETTRA)
Surface chemistry and reactivity of solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) and electrolyzer (SOEC) electrodes play a key role for transport and exchange processes, such as the oxygen reduction reaction in SOFC cathodes, and drive electrochemical performance and durability. In order to identify drivers and problems, it is necessary to probe electron and ion transfer and transport processes at electrolyte/electrode interfaces and surfaces and build broad fundamental understanding. This knowledge can then be used to drive the innovation of novel, more powerful electrode materials and cell designs.

We used a combination of spatially resolved scanning photoelectron microscopy and electrochemical measurements to study in situ the surface chemistry of cathode perovskite catalysts and electrolyte in electrochemical model cells during high temperature operation. The electrodes were made of screen-printed (La1-xSrx)MeO3 with Mn, Fe, Co, Ni as transition metal Me and x = 0 – 0.4 and covered a wide range in ionic and electric conductivity from pure ion to mixed conduction. The electrolyte was a thin yttrium-stabilized zirconia sheet. We studied the surface chemistry of oxide catalyst and electrolyte at temperatures between 400 and 700°C, oxygen pressure (10-7bar – 1mbar) and also in humidity and/or hydrocarbon containing environment and demonstrated systematic changes in the perovskite surface termination with oxygen chemical potential. Oxidizing environment was found to promote transition metal termination and presence of various oxygen surface species, while reducing environment drove segregation of strontium to the surface and suppressed the level of surface oxygen.

We also showed that this simple segregation behavior was dramatically changed in presence of impurities. Silica segregated to the surface, forming a glassy, insulating surface layer that slowed down the oxygen incorporation reaction and produced a strong degradation of the cell performance. While the degradation of Ni/NiO electrodes could be reversed by an applied cell voltage, no such remedy was observed for perovskite electrodes.

In our in-situ set up, oxygen in- or excorporation could be driven by an applied electric field across the cell. Oxygen ion flux and electric field caused dynamic changes of catalyst and electrolyte surface chemistry, including redox reaction, changes in surface segregation and long range surface diffusion at the electrode surface. The electrochemical response of the model cells was interpreted in terms of reactions and reaction steps that matched the spectroscopic observations, thus constructing new understanding of the processes in operating electrodes.