La2NiO4 is a very promising cathode material for intermediate and low temperature solid oxide cell applications, due to its good electronic and ionic conductivity, together with its high oxygen exchange activity with a low activation energy. Oxygen incorporation and transport in La2NiO4 (L2NO4) thin films are limited by surface reactions. Hence, tailoring the morphology is expected to lead to an overall improvement of the electrode performance. We report the growth of nano-architectured La2NiO4 thin film electrodes by Pulsed Injection Metal Organic Chemical Vapour Deposition (PI-MOCVD), achieving vertically gapped columns with a multi-fold active surface area, leading to much faster oxygen exchange. This nano-columnar structure is rooted in a dense bottom layer serving as a good electronic and ionic conduction pathway. The microstructure is tuned by modification of the growth temperature and characterised by SEM, TEM and XRD. We studied the effect of surface activity by electrical conductivity relaxation measurements in fully dense and nano-columnar La2NiO4 thin films of various thicknesses grown on several different single crystal substrates. Our results demonstrate that the increased surface area, in combination with the opening of different surface terminations, leads to a significant enhancement of the total exchange activity in our films with an optimized nano-architectured microstructure.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Special issue in honour of Prof. John Kilner’s 75th birthday