Nanoparticle scaffolds for syngas-fed solid oxide fuel cells
Incorporation of nanoparticles into devices such as solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) may provide benefits such as higher surface areas or finer control over microstructure. However, their use with traditional fabrication techniques such as screen-printing is problematic. Here, we show that mixing larger commercial particles with nanoparticles allows traditional ink formulation and screen-printing to be used while still providing benefits of nanoparticles such as increased porosity and lower sintering temperatures. SOFC anodes were produced by impregnating ceria–gadolinia (CGO) scaffolds with nickel nitrate solution. The scaffolds were produced from inks containing a mixture of hydrothermally-synthesised nanoparticle CGO, commercial CGO and polymeric pore formers. The scaffolds were heat-treated at either 1000 or 1300 °C, and were mechanically stable. In situ ultra-small X-ray scattering (USAXS) shows that the nanoparticles begin sintering around 900–1000 °C. Analysis by USAXS and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) revealed that the low temperature heat-treated scaffolds possessed higher porosity. Impregnated scaffolds were used to produce symmetrical cells, with the lower temperature heat-treated scaffolds showing improved gas diffusion, but poorer charge transfer. Using these scaffolds, lower temperature heat-treated cells of Ni–CGO/200 μm YSZ/CGO-LSCF performed better at 700 °C (and below) in hydrogen, and performed better at all temperatures using syngas, with power densities of up to 0.15 W cm−2 at 800 °C. This approach has the potential to allow the use of a wider range of materials and finer control over microstructure.