However, SOFC components exhibit sufficiently high electrocatalytic activity and oxide ion conductivity only at high temperatures, typically 800-900 °C. The high operation temperature induces various issues including high manufacturing and operation costs, fast performance degradation and slow startup/shutdown cycles. Lowering operation temperature to 500-600 °C is crucial to make SOFCs commercially competitive. However, with decreasing temperature the cell internal resistance associated with electrolyte and electrodes increase sharply, resulting in unacceptable low power density. New electrolyte and electrode materials with high oxide ion conductivity and electrocatalytic performance at low temperatures are needed.
In addition, direct utilisation of hydrocarbon fuels is of huge technical and economic significance but this has been a longstanding challenge due to sever carbon deposition and sulphur poisoning issues.
We specialise in probing electrical conduction mechanisms and defect chemistry of functional metal oxides, which enables us to design new materials with new concepts to achieve desired electrical properties. Our research aims to tackle the material challenges facing SOFCs and to design new electrolyte, cathode and anode materials to build next-generation SOFCs that operate at 500-600 °C with high performance and stability, and are compatible with hydrocarbon fuels.
The lab is equipped with a wide range of facilities for materials synthesis (high energy ball mill, high temperature chamber and tube furnaces); comprehensive electrical characterisation as a function of temperature and oxygen partial pressure (impedance spectroscopy, dc conductivity and Seebeck coefficient, electromotive force); cell construction and testing (screen printer, tape caster, ProboStat cell test fixture, impedance analyser and potentiostat).