Energy - Environment

Analyzing Potential Clean Energy Technology–Fuel Cells–with Microscopic Techniques

The principle of a ceramic fuel cell and the most important microscopic techniques for analyzing these devices are presented.

Fuel cells are a potential clean energy technology. It converts the chemical energy of the fuel directly to electricity with a high efficiency. A ceramic fuel cell is a highly promising fuel cell technology. It makes use of nanocomposite material structures to provide very high ionic conductivity in the solid electrolyte, which can help to achieve a high power density. Ceramic fuel cells are made up of complex nanoscale structures. Therefore, advanced microscopic techniques are required to reveal the real structure and its possible changes during the operation of the cell. This is necessary to determine the fundamental processes that are behind the macroscopic performance and cell degradation, which would also help to improve the performance and stability of the fuel cell.

Left: Components and working principle of a solid oxide fuel cell. Right: Interactions between an electron beam and sample.

In a WIREs Energy and Environment review by Asghar and co-workers, the principle of a ceramic fuel cell and the most important microscopic techniques for analyzing these devices are presented. Both traditional 2D microscopy and advanced 3D reconstruction techniques are discussed such as SEM, TEM, HR-TEM, FIB-SEM and X-ray nanotomography.

Concrete examples of how each technique has been applied to solve research problems are shown. Advantages and disadvantages of each technique are discussed, to help the researchers to decide which technique is the most suitable for the problem they are working with.

Finally, the paper outlines future directions on characterizing ceramic fuel cells e.g. through advanced hybrid in situ measurement setups. The methods presented in the paper would also be useful for other types of solid oxide fuel cells.

 

Kindly contributed by Muhammad Imran Asghar.

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