Advanced Electrode and Solid Electrolyte Materials for Elevated Temperature Water Electrolysis
LaboratoryIdaho National Laboratory (INL)
Capability ExpertDong Ding, Qian Zhang, Wei Wu
Process and Manufacturing Scale-Up
Node Readiness Category1: High-Temperature Electrolysis (HTE)
Hydrogen production via water electrolysis using solid oxide electrolysis cells (SOECs) at elevated temperatures has attracted considerable attention because of its favorable thermodynamics, kinetics as well as high cost-scaling factor. It is thus considered the most efficient and low-cost option when distributed/small scale hydrogen generation is required, especially from renewables. SOEC systems appear poised for commercialization, but widespread market acceptance/penetration will require continuous innovation of materials to enhance system lifetime and reduce cost. These novel materials are required to possess unique compositions, structures, morphologies, and architectures that promote the fast transport of ionic and electronic defects, facilitate rapid surface electrochemical kinetics, and enhance durability under realistic operating conditions.
A combinatorial approach is employed to evaluate/develop/benchmark advanced electrolyte and electrode materials, and to optimize the electrode microstructure and to modify the surface of existing electrodes with more active and robust nano-structured catalysts as well as to implement the integration of these cell components. Both protonic conducting and oxygen ion conducting solid oxide electrolysis cells are developed (p-SOEC and o-SOEC) at the electrochemical processing and electrocatalysis (EPEC) laboratory. In addition to o-SOEC, the EPEC lab strived to reduce operating temperature via p-SOEC, which allows better integration with renewable and/or nuclear energy for producing hydrogen economically at large-scale and to mitigate the high degradation rate and limited lifespan issues. INL capability experts in this area have a long history in developing electrode and electrolyte materials for various fuel cells using both conventional and high-throughput methodologies. The EPEC laboratory is capable of fabricating small button cells for fundamental study to single unit cells (SUC, e.g. 5 x 5 cm2 or 10 x 10 cm2), the standard units for industrial stack, with specified electrode microstructure and porosity. The node has demonstrated extensively supportive efforts for industry, university and national laboratory partners by all means of collaborations.
Existing capability ranges from materials discovery, synthesis, characterization, high-throughput materials testing, and electrochemical evaluation. The special emphasis is placed on the capability of scaling-up (up to 20 x 20 cm2 SUC) including but not limited to cost-effective high temperature roll-to-roll (up to 1700oC), and solid oxide additive manufacturing for electrode-supported or electrolyte-support cells. The unique high temperature ultra-fast sintering system (e.g. benchtop and industrial scale electric field assisted sintering) can significantly reduce the sintering temperatures of the electrochemical cells.
INL has recruited industrial experts with broad knowledge in developing advanced materials for solid oxide cells (SOCs), including high-throughput combinatorial materials discovery, scale-up, cell manufacturing, and electrochemical testing. The fabrication capability with cutting edge facilities and quality control/quality assurance enables to bridge the gaps between academia and industry by promptly adopting materials and catalysts innovations developed by the former and providing the scaling-up experience and recommendations to the latter.
Apart from materials/catalysts synthesis, high-throughput testing (thirty-four electrochemical testing stands for button cells, and five testing kilns for SUC/short stack, equipped with multi-channel testing fixture/reactors to meet varied testing conditions and requirements) allows quick materials screening and selection, enabling prompt material/catalyst R&D. The laboratory also has capability of material/catalyst property characterization including 3D optical profilometer, high steam thermogravimetric analysis, temperature programmed desorption/reduction/oxidation (TPD/TPR/TPO), isotope exchange, pulse chemisorption analyses, operando/in situ diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transform spectroscopy (DRIFTS), Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) surface area analysis, particle size distribution analysis, thermal-/Chemical-expansion measurement, electrical conductivity relaxation (ECR), Coulometric titration technique and product gas analysis based on mass-spectroscopy and gas-chromatography. We also have capability of electrode engineering and diagnosis (EED), facilitating investigation of the microstructural evolution, relating to the performance change by both experimental observation and computational work including tomography, CT-scan (micro and nano), 3D reconstruction, density function theory, phase field, continuum modeling, and Multiphysics modeling.
Water electrolysis cells operated at elevated temperatures (400-850C) can overcome the kinetic challenges of low temperature electrolysis and offer high energy efficiency. Advanced materials design and discovery are essential in improving the overall system efficiency at high hydrogen production rates, reducing cost, and efficiently using renewable and industrial excess heats.
Figure 1. High temperature Roll-to-Roll (HT-R2R) & Solid Oxide Additive Manufacturing (SOAM)
Figure 2. High-Throughput Materials Testing for half cells, model cells, symmetrical cells and full cells (HTMT)
Figure 3. Elevated Temperature ElectroCatalysis (ETEC)
Figure 4. Advanced synthesis and bulk supply of powders (ASBSP).
Figure 5. Electrode Engineering and Diagnosis (EED)
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