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