Surface-decoration of perovskites can strongly affect the oxygen reduction activity, and therefore is a new and promising approach to improve SOFC cathode materials. In this study, we demonstrate that a small amount of secondary phase on a (001) La0.8Sr0.2CoO3−δ (LSC) surface can either significantly activate or passivate the electrode. LSC (001) microelectrodes prepared by pulsed laser deposition on a (001)-oriented yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) substrate were decorated with La-, Co-, and Sr-(hydr)oxides/carbonates. “Sr”-decoration with nanoparticle coverage in the range from 50% to 80% of the LSC surface enhanced the surface exchange coefficient, kq, by an order of magnitude while “La”-decoration and “Co”-decoration led to no change and reduction in kq, respectively. Although the physical origin for the enhancement is not fully understood, results from atomic force microscopy, X-ray diffraction, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy suggest that the observed kq enhancement for “Sr”-decorated surfaces can be attributed largely to catalytically active interface regions between surface Sr-enriched particles and the LSC surface.
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