Controlling cation segregation in perovskite-based electrodes for high electro-catalytic activity and durability†
Solid oxide cell (SOC) based energy conversion systems have the potential to become the cleanest and most efficient systems for reversible conversion between electricity and chemical fuels due to their high efficiency, low emission, and excellent fuel flexibility. Broad implementation of this technology is however hindered by the lack of high-performance electrode materials. While many perovskite-based materials have shown remarkable promise as electrodes for SOCs, cation enrichment or segregation near the surface or interfaces is often observed, which greatly impacts not only electrode kinetics but also their durability and operational lifespan. Since the chemical and structural variations associated with surface enrichment or segregation are typically confined to the nanoscale, advanced experimental and computational tools are required to probe the detailed composition, structure, and nanostructure of these near-surface regions in real time with high spatial and temporal resolutions. In this review article, an overview of the recent progress made in this area is presented, highlighting the thermodynamic driving forces, kinetics, and various configurations of surface enrichment and segregation in several widely studied perovskite-based material systems. A profound understanding of the correlation between the surface nanostructure and the electro-catalytic activity and stability of the electrodes is then emphasized, which is vital to achieving the rational design of more efficient SOC electrode materials with excellent durability. Furthermore, the methodology and mechanistic understanding of the surface processes are applicable to other materials systems in a wide range of applications, including thermo-chemical photo-assisted splitting of H2O/CO2 and metal–air batteries.