Date

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Chemical Engineering

First Adviser

McIntosh, Steven

Other advisers/committee members

Landskron, Kai; Schultz, Kelly; Berger, Bryan; Kothare, Mayuresh

Abstract

In the field of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), a substantial portion of research is focused on the ability of some oxide materials to conduct oxygen anions through their structure. For electrolytes, the benefits of improving bulk transport of ions are obvious: decrease the resistive losses of the electrolyte, and device efficiency goes up and higher power densities are possible. Even for cathode materials, better bulk ion transport leads to an increase in the oxygen exchange rate at the cathode surface, and the oxygen reduction reaction at the cathode surface is the rate limiting step for SOFC operation at intermediate temperatures (500-700ºC). As operation in this regime is a key step towards lowering the manufacturing cost and increasing the lifetime of devices, much effort is spent searching for new, more conductive materials, and analyzing existing materials to discover the structure-activity relationships that influence ionic conductivity.In the first part of this work, an overview is given of the neutron powder diffraction (NPD) techniques that are used to probe the structure of the materials in later parts. In the second part, NPD was used to analyze the structures of perovskite-type cathode materials, and show that increases in bulk conductivity led to increases in the surface oxygen exchange rate of these materials. In the final part, the methods used for SOFC cathode design were applied towards the design of oxide catalysts used for certain hydrocarbon partial oxidation reactions. The reactions studied follow the Mars van Krevelen mechanism, where oxygen atoms in the catalyst are consumed as part of the reaction and are subsequently replenished by oxygen in the gas phase. Similar to SOFC cathode operation, these processes include an oxygen reduction step, so it was hypothesized that increasing the ionic conductivity of the catalysts would improve their performance, just as it does for SOFC cathode materials. While the results are preliminary, the combination of a reference catalyst for the oxidative coupling of methane with a support with very high oxygen conductivity demonstrated a small increase in performance at low temperatures.

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