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Nature. 2004 Sep 9;431(7005):170-3.

A high-performance cathode for the next generation of solid-oxide fuel cells.

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  • 1Materials Science, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA.

Abstract

Fuel cells directly and efficiently convert chemical energy to electrical energy. Of the various fuel cell types, solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) combine the benefits of environmentally benign power generation with fuel flexibility. However, the necessity for high operating temperatures (800-1,000 degrees C) has resulted in high costs and materials compatibility challenges. As a consequence, significant effort has been devoted to the development of intermediate-temperature (500-700 degrees C) SOFCs. A key obstacle to reduced-temperature operation of SOFCs is the poor activity of traditional cathode materials for electrochemical reduction of oxygen in this temperature regime. Here we present Ba(0.5)Sr(0.5)Co(0.8)Fe(0.2)O(3-delta)(BSCF) as a new cathode material for reduced-temperature SOFC operation. BSCF, incorporated into a thin-film doped ceria fuel cell, exhibits high power densities (1,010 mW cm(-2) and 402 mW cm(-2) at 600 degrees C and 500 degrees C, respectively) when operated with humidified hydrogen as the fuel and air as the cathode gas. We further demonstrate that BSCF is ideally suited to 'single-chamber' fuel-cell operation, where anode and cathode reactions take place within the same physical chamber. The high power output of BSCF cathodes results from the high rate of oxygen diffusion through the material. By enabling operation at reduced temperatures, BSCF cathodes may result in widespread practical implementation of SOFCs.

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