Project No: FE0009620
Performer: Leland Stanford Junior University


Shailesh Vora
Technology Manager
National Energy Technology Laboratory
626 Cochrans Mill Road
P.O. Box 10940, MS 922-204
Pittsburgh, PA 15236-0940
(412) 386-7515

Joseph Stoffa
Project Manager
National Energy Technology Laboratory
3610 Collins Ferry Road
P.O. Box 880, MS PO3B
Morgantown, WV 26507-0880
(304) 285-0285

William C. Chueh
Principal Investigator
Department of Materials Science & Engineering
496 Lomita Mall Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305
(650) 725-7515

Award Date:  10/01/2012
Project Date:  09/30/2015

DOE Share: $375,000.00
Performer Share: $125,000.00
Total Award Value: $500,000.00

Performer website: Leland Stanford Junior University -

Advanced Energy Systems - Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

Surface-Modified Electrodes: Enhancing Performance Guided by In-Situ Spectroscopy and Microscopy

Project Description

Stanford University will identify correlations between performance and the microscopic surface properties of oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) active sites in state-of-the-art solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) cathodes, quantified using novel in situ spectroscopy, scattering, and microscopy techniques, while the electrochemical reactions take place under SOFC operating conditions. In particular, the characteristics of active sites that display high electrochemical activity will be identified. This fundamental knowledge will be used to rationally engineer electrode surfaces in both idealized and, later, porous lanthanum strontium cobalt ferrite (LSCF) and similar cathodes. Finally, the effort will optimize and validate the electrode modification strategies using button-cell SOFCs. 

This project relies on using three new approaches to measure cathode surface characteristics in situ: (1) X-ray spectroscopy, (2) X-ray diffraction, and (3) transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The team will utilize two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science user facilities: the Advanced Light Source (ALS) facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) facility (a directorate of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory operated by Stanford University) to carry out in situ X-ray experiments.

Program Background and Project Benefits

This project focuses on improving cathode activity by directly modifying the chemistry and structure of the nanoscale oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) active surface sites. Improved cell/stack life and performance will reduce operating cost and increase efficiency, resulting in reduction in the cost of electricity and reduction of CO2 emissions from the entire platform. Specifically, this project will identify the characteristics of active ORR sites that display high electrochemical activity, use this knowledge to engineer electrode surfaces, and optimize and validate the modification strategies.

Project Scope and Technology Readiness Level

This project will develop greatly improved solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) cathodes by modifying the surfaces of conventional electrode materials. The effort will identify correlations between performance and the microscopic surface properties of oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) active sites, quantified using novel in-situ spectroscopy, scattering and microscopy techniques, while electrochemical reaction takes place under fuel cell conditions. The project will consist of three main technical tasks: (1) Fabricating ideal thin-film cathodes on single crystal electrolyte substrates and characterizing their ORR activities using current-voltage and impedance spectroscopy measurements; (2) probing the microscopic behavior of cathode thin films using in-situ X-ray spectroscopy, scattering and environmental transmission electron microscopy (TEM) under SOFC-relevant conditions, and correlating them to the ORR activity; and (3) developing surface modification strategies for ideal and commercial LSCF cathodes to dramatically improve the electrochemical activity.

The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) assessment identifies the current state of readiness of the key technologies being developed under the DOE’s Clean Coal Research Program. In FY 12, this project was not assessed.

The TRL assessment process and its results including definition and description of the levels may be found in the "2012 Technology Readiness Assessment-Analysis of Active Research Portfolio".