Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair

Xingbo Liu


With demand over green energy economy, fuel cells have been developed as a promising energy conversion technology with higher efficiency and less emission. Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) can utilize various fuels in addition to hydrogen including coal derived sygas, and thus are favored for future power generation due to dependence on coal in electrical industry. However impurities such as sulfur and phosphorous present in coal syngas in parts per million (p.p.m.) levels can severely poison SOFC anode typically made of Ni/yttria-stabilized-zirconia (Ni-YSZ) and limit SOFC applicability in economically derivable fuels. The focus of the research is to develop strategy for application of high performance SOFC in coal syngas with tolerance against trace impurities such as H2S and PH3. To realize the research goal, the experimental study on sulfur tolerant anode materials and examination of various fuel impurity effects on SOFC anode are combined with electrochemical modeling of SOFC cathode kinetics in order to benefit design of direct-coal-syngas SOFC.;Tolerant strategy for SOFC anode against sulfur is studied by using alternative materials which can both mitigate sulfur poisoning and function as active anode components. The Ni-YSZ anode was modified by incorporation of lanthanum doped ceria (LDC) nano-coatings via impregnation. Cell test in coal syngas containing 20 ppm H2S indicated the impregnated LDC coatings inhibited on-set of sulfur poisoning by over 10hrs. Cell analysis via X-ray photon spectroscopy (XPS), X-ray diffraction (XRD) and electrochemistry revealed LDC coatings reacted with H2S via chemisorptions, resulting in less sulfur blocking triple--phase-boundary and minimized performance loss. Meanwhile the effects of PH3 impurity on SOFC anode is examined by using Ni-YSZ anode supported SOFC. Degradation of cell is found to be irreversible due to adsorption of PH3 on TPB and further reaction with Ni to form secondary phases with low melting point. The feasibility of mixed ionic and electronic conductive (MIEC) metal oxides with perovskite structure (ABO3) as alternative ceramic SOFC anodes in coal syngas has been examined by PH3 exposure test. The study found although perovskite anodes can be generally more tolerant against H2S, further examination on PH3 tolerance is indispensable before their extensive application in coal syngas.;On the theoretical end it is this research's initiative that oxygen reduction reaction at mixed ionic and electronic conductive (MIEC) cathode is a key factor controlling SOFC performance at intermediate temperature (700∼850°C). It is generally recognized that the overall charge-transfer process could occur through both surface pathway at triple-phase boundary (3PB) and bulk pathway at electrolyte/cathode interface (2PB). A modified one-dimensional model is thus developed to predict defect evolution of MIEC cathode under overpotential by incorporating multi-step charge-transfer into the bi-pathway continuum model. Finite volume control method is applied to obtain solutions for the model. The simulation predicted kinetics transition from 3PB control to 2PB control as cathodic overpotential stepping from -0.2V to -0.4V, depending on the material properties parameters. Meanwhile significant activation behavior of the MIEC electrode was also observed as indicated by extension of reaction region towards gas-exposed oxide surface. This model addressed contribution from electrochemical-controlled rate-limiting steps (RLSs) on the reduction kinetics, and identified the role played by multiple material property parameters such as surface oxygen ion concentration and bulk vacancy concentration on the kinetics transition.;Combined academic knowledge gained through experimental investigation and theoretical simulation in this research would benefit the future design, development and application strategy of high-performance SOFC in coal syngas fuels.