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Thermal-expansion offset for high-performance fuel cell cathodes

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Abstract

One challenge for the commercial development of solid oxide fuel cells as efficient energy-conversion devices is thermo-mechanical instability. Large internal-strain gradients caused by the mismatch in thermal expansion behaviour between different fuel cell components are the main cause of this instability, which can lead to cell degradation, delamination or fracture1,2,3,4. Here we demonstrate an approach to realizing full thermo-mechanical compatibility between the cathode and other cell components by introducing a thermal-expansion offset. We use reactive sintering to combine a cobalt-based perovskite with high electrochemical activity and large thermal-expansion coefficient with a negative-thermal-expansion material, thus forming a composite electrode with a thermal-expansion behaviour that is well matched to that of the electrolyte. A new interphase is formed because of the limited reaction between the two materials in the composite during the calcination process, which also creates A-site deficiencies in the perovskite. As a result, the composite shows both high activity and excellent stability. The introduction of reactive negative-thermal-expansion components may provide a general strategy for the development of fully compatible and highly active electrodes for solid oxide fuel cells.

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Fig. 1: Properties and formation mechanism of c-SYNC.
Fig. 2: Thermal-expansion behaviour of c-SYNC and electrochemical performance.
Fig. 3: Thermal cycling and mechanism schematic.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21576135, 21878158, 21828801 and 52006150), Jiangsu Natural Science Foundation for Distinguished Young Scholars (BK20170043), the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions, and State Key Laboratory of Materials-Oriented Chemical Engineering. R.O. acknowledges support from the Fulbright Foundation Global Scholars Program and the US Army Research Office under grant number W911NF-17-540 1-0051. M.N. acknowledges a Research Grant Council University Grants Committee Hong Kong SAR Grant, reference number PolyU 152064/18E. The authors also acknowledge the assistance on HRTEM observation received from the Electron Microscope Center of Shenzhen University.

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W.Z., R.O. and Z.S. conceived and designed the project. Y.Z. and B.C. performed the characterizations and experiments. Y.Z., B.C. and D.G. analysed the data. M.X., R.R. and M.N. contributed the laboratory apparatus and experiment sites. Y.Z., B.C., W.Z., R.O. and Z.S. drafted the article and revised it critically. All authors reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Wei Zhou or Zongping Shao.

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Peer review information Nature thanks Yanhai Du, Anke Hagen and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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This file contains Supplementary Sections 1–4, including Supplementary Tables 1–8, Supplementary Figures 1–19 and Supplementary References.

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Zhang, Y., Chen, B., Guan, D. et al. Thermal-expansion offset for high-performance fuel cell cathodes. Nature 591, 246–251 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03264-1

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