Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Fanglin (Frank) Chen


Nowadays, the micro-tubular solid oxide fuel cells (MT-SOFCs), especially the anode supported MT-SOFCs have been extensively developed to be applied for SOFC stacks designation, which can be potentially used for portable power sources and vehicle power supply. To prepare MT-SOFCs with high electrochemical performance, one of the main strategies is to optimize the microstructure of the anode support. Recently, a novel phase inversion method has been applied to prepare the anode support with a unique asymmetrical microstructure, which can improve the electrochemical performance of the MT-SOFCs. Since several process parameters of the phase inversion method can influence the pore formation mechanism and final microstructure, it is essential and necessary to systematically investigate the relationship between phase inversion process parameters and final microstructure of the anode supports. The objective of this study is aiming at correlating the process parameters and microstructure and further preparing MT-SOFCs with enhanced electrochemical performance.

Non-solvent, which is used to trigger the phase separation process, can significantly influence the microstructure of the anode support fabricated by phase inversion method. To investigate the mechanism of non-solvent affecting the microstructure, water and ethanol/water mixture were selected for the NiO-YSZ anode supports fabrication. The presence of ethanol in non-solvent can inhibit the growth of the finger-like pores in the tubes. With the increasing of the ethanol concentration in the non-solvent, a relatively dense layer can be observed both in the outside and inside of the tubes. The mechanism of pores growth and morphology obtained by using non-solvent with high concentration ethanol was explained based on the inter-diffusivity between solvent and non-solvent. Solvent and non-solvent pair with larger Dm value is benefit for the growth of finger-like pores. Three cells with different anode geometries was prepared, La0.85Sr0.15MnO3 (LSM) was selected as the cathode. Cells were tested at 800oC using humidified H2 as fuel. Cell with anode prepared by using pure water as non-solvent shows a maximum power density up to 437mW/cm2. By comparing the anode geometry and electrochemical performance, it indicated that microstructure with longer finger-like pores and thinner macrovoid free layer close to the inner side of the tube is benefit to cell performance.

Another factor that can affect the microstructure of anode support is the ratio of solvent and polymer binder. In this research, anode-supported MT-SOFCs have been fabricated by phase inversion method. The effect of the viscosity of the casting slurry on the microstructure of YSZ-NiO anode support has been investigated. The microstructure of the YSZ-NiO support can be effectively controlled by varying the slurry composition with different solvent and polymer binder content. Gas permeation and mechanical strength of the YSZ-NiO support have been measured and four YSZ-NiO anode supports have been chosen for subsequent cell fabrication. The effective conductivity of the different anode supports has been measured at room temperature after reduced. Anode-supported single cells with YSZ electrolyte and LSM/YSZ cathode are fabricated and tested. Maximum cell power densities of 606 mWcm-2, 449 mWcm-2, 339 mWcm-2 and 253 mWcm-2 have been obtained respectively at 750 oC with humidified hydrogen as fuel and ambient air as oxidant. The correlation between the cell electrochemical performance and anode microstructures has been discussed.

Adjusting the slurry composition by introducing additive is also an effective approach to tailor the microstructure of the anode support. Poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG), which is a common applied polymer additive, was selected to fabricate the YSZ-NiO anode supports. The effect of molecular weight and amount of PEG additive on the thermodynamics of the casting solutions was characterized by measuring the coagulation value. Viscosity of the casting slurries was also measured and the influence of PEG additive on viscosity was studied and discussed. The presence of PEG in the casting slurry can greatly influence the final anode support microstructure. Based on the microstructure result and the measured gas permeation value, two anode supports were selected for cell fabrication. For cell with the anode support fabricated using slurry with PEG additive, a maximum cell power density of 704 mWcm-2 is obtained at 750 oC with humidified hydrogen as fuel and ambient air as oxidant; cell fabricated without any PEG additive shows the peak cell power density of 331 mWcm-2. The relationship between anode microstructure and cell performance was discussed.

Anode-supported micro-tubular solid oxide fuel cells (MT-SOFCs) based on BaZr0.1Ce0.7Y0.1Yb0.1O3-δ (BZCYYb) proton-conducting electrolyte have been prepared using a phase inversion method. Three sulfur-free polymer binder candidates ethyl cellulose (EC), polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), polyetherimide (PEI) and sulfur-containingpolythersulfone (PESf) were used as polymer binders to fabricateNiO-BZCYYb anode. The overall influence of polymer binder on the anode supports was evaluated. Sulfide impurity generated from PESf was revealed by XRD and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). The difference in the anode microstructure for samples fabricated by different polymer binders was examined by scanning electron microscope (SEM) and analyzed by measuring the gas permeation data of the reduced samples. Single cells based on different anode supports were characterized in anode-supported MT-SOFCs with the cell configuration of Ni-BZCYYb anode, BZCYYb electrolyte and La0.6Sr0.4Co0.2Fe0.8O3-δ (LSCF)-BZCYYb cathode at 650 oC using hydrogen as fuel and ambient air as oxidant. MT-SOFCs of the anode fabricated using PEI show maximum power density of 0.45 Wcm-2 compared with 0.35 Wcm-2 for cells fabricated with PESf. The difference in cell performance was attributed to the phase purity of the anode fabricated by different polymer binders. Sulfur-free polymer binder PEI exhibits advantages over the commonly applied PESf and other sulfur-free polymer binder candidates.

To eliminate the skin layer formed close to the inner side of the tubular sample when using the phase inversion method. Polyethersulfone (PESf)-polyethylenimine (PEI) blend was employed as the polymer binder to fabricate the micro-tubular solid oxide fuel cells (MT-SOFCs). The potential impurity introduced in the anode support by the polymer binder was examined by XPS and the resulting novel microstructure was analyzed based on the backscattered electron (BSE) images. Cells fabricated with blend polymer binder showed significantly enhanced power output compared with those cells only fabricated with PEI or PESf. The improved cell performance demonstrated that using blend polymer as binder is a promising and versatile approach for MT-SOFC fabrication via phase inversion method.

Finally, to investigate the effect of the anode microstructure on the total cell performance, two types of anode support with different microstructure were prepared via the phase inversion method at different temperature. Cells fabricated based on these two anode supports were tested at 750 oC with hydrogen or hydrogen mixture with fuel gas. The measured current density-voltage (I-V) curves were fitted by a polarization model, and several parameters were archived through the modeling process. The influence of the anode support on the total cell performance was discussed based on the calculated result.