. Scientific Frontline: Ural Chemists Improved Material for Fuel Cells

Monday, December 5, 2022

Ural Chemists Improved Material for Fuel Cells

Scientists were able to identify the optimal amount of iron administered.
Photo Credit: Ilya Safarov

Chemists at Ural Federal University and the Institute of High-Temperature Electrochemistry, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences have improved a material for high-performance electrochemical devices. Such materials are used as electrodes in solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) or proton-ceramic fuel cells (PCFC). Scientists proposed the infiltration method as a simple and affordable way to improve electrochemical performance. Their method increased the conductivity of this material, consequently improving the performance (increased power) of fuel cells. The change now makes the reaction go faster. The material and method are described in the journal Catalysts.

In the course of their research, chemists introduced iron into the basic barium cerate-zirconate, which means that they added iron ions to the complex oxide perovskites. In this way they were able to obtain a high level of mixed ion-electron conductivity, which is necessary for good electrodes. Similar materials exist today, but scientists around the world are trying to optimize them-improving their properties to increase efficiency.

"Our approach adds serious advantages to this material over other known electrodes. In addition, we proposed a way to improve the electrochemical activity of the electrodes by introducing praseodymium oxide nanoparticles into their porous structure. This approach had a positive effect that led to an increase in the electrochemical activity of the electrodes," explains study co-author Liana Tarutina, Junior Researcher at the Laboratories of Electrochemical Devices and Materials of UrFU and Electrochemical Devices on Solid Oxide Proton Electrolytes at the Institute of High-Temperature Electrochemistry, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In addition, scientists were able to identify the optimal amount of injected iron, which achieves a golden mean between the various functional properties.

"We also tested the materials under study in practice as electrodes of a reversible solid oxide cell capable of operating both as a fuel cell with electricity generation and as an electrolyzer with high-purity hydrogen production," adds Liana Tarutina.

Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) and proton-ceramic fuel cells (PCFC) are electrochemical devices that convert energy. SOFC converts the energy of a chemical reaction into electrical energy. PCFC, on the other hand, uses energy to produce a chemical product. SOFC and PCFC are used in the energy industry as a whole. The important advantage of such fuel cells is their ability to convert a wide range of fuels of different purity, high energy efficiency, and no harmful emissions.

Such fuel cells can run on hydrogen, methane, and gas mixtures. They are also widely used as autonomous current sources for power supply of cathodic protection stations of oil and gas pipelines, in military and space industries, for power supply of residential buildings.

"Chemical design of new functional materials is an important stage for the development of electrochemical devices with increased efficiency and power. This direction is actively developing all over the world, being one of the trajectories of hydrogen energy development. The Urals is traditionally considered to be a leading region in the field of materials science, so our works and those of our colleagues are known not only in Russia, but also abroad," says Dmitry Medvedev, Head of the Hydrogen Energy Laboratory at the Ural Federal University.

The Ural chemists have been developing and researching cathode materials for SOFC and PCFC for 10 years. In 2022, the Ural Federal University established the Institute of Hydrogen Energy Research under the Priority 2030 program, which intensified fundamental and applied research in the field of solid oxide devices.

Source/Credit: Ural Federal University

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