Enhancing the Stability of Infiltrated Ni/YSZ Anodes

Thursday, 30 July 2015: 11:20
Boisdale (Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre)
P. Keyvanfar (University of Calgary), A. R. Hanifi (University of Alberta), P. Sarkar (Alberta Innovates - Technology Futures), T. H. Etsell (University of Alberta), and V. Birss (University of Calgary)
One of the challenges related to Ni-based anodes in solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) is their dimensional instability, especially when they are exposed to air and then back to fuel, which is called redox cycling. One possible solution to this problem is the fabrication of a pre-sintered porous electrolyte matrix, followed by infiltration of 10-20 vol% of the active materials into this scaffold. However, this can lead to instability of the infiltrated particles as a result of sintering of the infiltrated phase at SOFC working temperatures. This problem is very severe when depositing nano-sized infiltrated metal particles on the oxide ceramic backbone.

In this study, Ni-containing solutions were infiltrated into a symmetrical tubular half-cell, fabricated by slip-casting, composed of two porous yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) layers, separated by a 50 μm dense YSZ electrolyte. A combination of electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) and electron microscopy imaging has been used to determine long term stability of the cells.

It was found that the amount of infiltrated Ni has a significant impact on the long term stability of the Ni/YSZ anodes. This can be explained by the better connectivity between Ni particles even after long term testing when there is more Ni in the structure. It was also demonstrated that high temperature treatment of the infiltrated Ni/YSZ anodes just after the first few infiltrations, followed by several further Ni infiltration steps, has a significant effect not only on the stability of the anode at 800 C, but also on the anode performance. As the YSZ backbone has the ability to dissolve NiO at higher temperatures, the dissolved NiO can be ex-soluted in the form of nano-sized Ni particles at cell working temperatures and under reducing atmospheres. This effect was also investigated using electron microscopy, revealing the size and shape of the ex-soluted Ni particles, especially after long term testing.

Finally, the effect of infiltration of cerium oxide prior to Ni infiltration on the stability of the anodes was also investigated. As the wettability of Ni particles on a reduced ceria surface is different from non-reduced ceria, the sintering behaviour of Ni on these two surfaces was found to be different as well.