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Readily processed protonic ceramic fuel cells with high performance at low temperatures

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Science  18 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6254, pp. 1321-1326
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3987

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Cooler ceramic fuel cells

Ceramic ion conductors can be used as electrolytes in fuel cells using natural gas. One drawback of such solid-oxide fuel cells that conduct oxygen ions is their high operating temperatures (at least 600°C). Duan et al. have made a proton-conducting ceramic fuel cell with a modified cathode material that exhibits high performance on methane fuel at 500°C (see the Perspective by Gorte).

Science, this issue p. 1321; see also p. 1290

Abstract

Because of the generally lower activation energy associated with proton conduction in oxides compared to oxygen ion conduction, protonic ceramic fuel cells (PCFCs) should be able to operate at lower temperatures than solid oxide fuel cells (250° to 550°C versus ≥600°C) on hydrogen and hydrocarbon fuels if fabrication challenges and suitable cathodes can be developed. We fabricated the complete sandwich structure of PCFCs directly from raw precursor oxides with only one moderate-temperature processing step through the use of sintering agents such as copper oxide. We also developed a proton-, oxygen-ion–, and electron-hole–conducting PCFC-compatible cathode material, BaCo0.4Fe0.4Zr0.1Y0.1O3-δ (BCFZY0.1), that greatly improved oxygen reduction reaction kinetics at intermediate to low temperatures. We demonstrated high performance from five different types of PCFC button cells without degradation after 1400 hours. Power densities as high as 455 milliwatts per square centimeter at 500°C on H2 and 142 milliwatts per square centimeter on CH4 were achieved, and operation was possible even at 350°C.

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