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Structural analysis of nickel doped cerium oxide catalysts for fuel reforming in solid oxide fuel cells

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As world energy demands increase, research into more efficient energy production methods has become imperative. Heterogeneous catalysis and nanoscience are used to promote chemical transformations important for energy production. These

As world energy demands increase, research into more efficient energy production methods has become imperative. Heterogeneous catalysis and nanoscience are used to promote chemical transformations important for energy production. These concepts are important in solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) which have attracted attention because of their potential to provide an efficient and environmentally favorable power generation system. The SOFC is also fuel-flexible with the ability to run directly on many fuels other than hydrogen. Internal fuel reforming directly in the anode of the SOFC would greatly reduce the cost and complexity of the device. Methane is the simplest hydrocarbon and a main component in natural gas, making it useful when testing catalysts on the laboratory scale. Nickel (Ni) and gadolinium (Gd) doped ceria (CeO2) catalysts for potential use in the SOFC anode were synthesized with a spray drying method and tested for catalytic performance using partial oxidation of methane and steam reforming. The relationships between catalytic performance and structure were then investigated using X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy, and environmental transmission electron microscopy. The possibility of solid solutions, segregated phases, and surface layers of Ni were explored. Results for a 10 at.% Ni in CeO2 catalyst reveal a poor catalytic behavior while a 20 at.% Ni in CeO2 catalyst is shown to have superior activity. The inclusion of both 10 at.% Gd and 10 at.% Ni in CeO2 enhances the catalytic performance. Analysis of the presence of Ni in all 3 samples reveals Ni heterogeneity and little evidence for extensive solid solution doping. Ni is found in small domains throughout CeO2 particles. In the 20 at.% Ni sample a segregated, catalytically active NiO phase is observed. Overall, it is found that significant interaction between Ni and CeO2 occurs that could affect the synthesis and functionality of the SOFC anode.

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  • 2012

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Optimization of ionic conductivity in doped ceria using density functional theory and kinetic lattice Monte Carlo

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Fuel cells, particularly solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), are important for the future of greener and more efficient energy sources. Although SOFCs have been in existence for over fifty years,

Fuel cells, particularly solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), are important for the future of greener and more efficient energy sources. Although SOFCs have been in existence for over fifty years, they have not been deployed extensively because they need to be operated at a high temperature (∼1000 °C), are expensive, and have slow response to changes in energy demands. One important need for commercialization of SOFCs is a lowering of their operating temperature, which requires an electrolyte that can operate at lower temperatures. Doped ceria is one such candidate. For this dissertation work I have studied different types of doped ceria to understand the mechanism of oxygen vacancy diffusion through the bulk. Doped ceria is important because they have high ionic conductivities thus making them attractive candidates for the electrolytes of solid oxide fuel cells. In particular, I have studied how the ionic conductivities are improved in these doped materials by studying the oxygen-vacancy formations and migrations. In this dissertation I describe the application of density functional theory (DFT) and Kinetic Lattice Monte Carlo (KLMC) simulations to calculate the vacancy diffusion and ionic conductivities in doped ceria. The dopants used are praseodymium (Pr), gadolinium (Gd), and neodymium (Nd), all belonging to the lanthanide series. The activation energies for vacancy migration between different nearest neighbor (relative to the dopant) positions were calculated using the commercial DFT code VASP (Vienna Ab-initio Simulation Package). These activation energies were then used as inputs to the KLMC code that I co-developed. The KLMC code was run for different temperatures (673 K to 1073 K) and for different dopant concentrations (0 to 40%). These simulations have resulted in the prediction of dopant concentrations for maximum ionic conductivity at a given temperature.

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  • 2011