Characterisation of the ceria and yttria co-doped scandia zirconia; produced by an innovative sol-gel and combustion process
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In the last decade new materials appeared that are candidates to be used as an electrolyte in a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell, SOFC. Some materials show high ionic conductivity but lack in important properties, such as mechanical stability or chemical compatibility with other materials in the fuel cell. Scandia Stabilised Zirconia, SSZ, became a possibility when the scandia price dropped with the opening of the Chinese and Russian markets. In the starting system Ce[subscript(x)]Y[subscript(0.2-x)]Sc₀.₆Zr₃.₂O[subscript(8-δ)], (0≤x≤0.2), scandia is introduced to improve conductivity and stabilise the cubic phase; yttria is introduced to fully stabilise the cubic phase and ceria to enhance conductivity lost with the introduction of yttria. The aim of this project is to develop a reliable new method to produce quality ceramics that are not strongly composition dependent, then to prepare a range of compositions and compare intrinsic properties without having to be concerned that poor sintering dominates conduction properties. This project can be divided in two sections, the first section the powder production method, the characteristics of the powders and its final products are in focus. In the second section the relation between electric characteristics and microstructure of the material is reported. In the first section, the effect of different compositions of the system Ce[subscript(x)]Y[subscript(0.2-x)]Sc₀.₆Zr₃.₂O[subscript(8-δ)], (0≤x≤0.2) is studied, in terms of structure, phase and microstructure. The nature, size and shape of the powders are discussed, and their effect on the final product. The sol-gel and combustion method gives the formation of hard agglomerates (shells), during the combustion, a wide range of grain sizes, between less than 1µm and 200 µm, and the formation of grains with non spherical shape. In this project, the sol-gel and combustion process and solid state method are also compared. In the second section of this project, AC Impedance measurements, as a function of temperature, oxygen partial pressure and time are discussed. The Arrhenius plot for all compositions shows two regions (high and low temperature) and the change of region occurs at 580 °C. At low temperatures there is a slight difference between compositions but this difference is less at high temperatures. The obtained ionic conductivity, at 350 °C, varies from 3.84×10⁻⁶ to 5.53×10⁻⁵ S/cm; at 700 °C, ionic conductivity from 0.013 to 0.044 S/cm. At low temperatures, the activation energy associated with bulk process is generally lower than grain boundary process; for example, the composition Ce₀.₁Y₀.₁Sc₀.₆Zr₃.₂O₇.₆₅ has an activation energy, for the bulk process, of 1.05 eV and an activation energy, for the grain boundary process, of 1.17 eV. For compositions with higher ceria content, activation energy, for bulk and grain boundary, have similar values. The AC impedance as function of oxygen partial pressure show that the amount of ceria introduced as an effect on the conductivity at low oxygen partial pressure. For the sample with no ceria in its composition, Y₀.₂Sc₀.₆Zr₃.₂O₇.₆₀, the conductivity does not vary significantly as the oxygen partial pressure is decreased; for oxygen partial of 0.21 atm, conductivity is 0.018 S/cm and when oxygen partial pressure is approximately 10⁻²⁴ atm conductivity is 0.018 S/cm. For the sample with a higher content of ceria, Ce₀.₁₂Y₀.₀₈Sc₀.₆Zr₃.₂O₇.₆₆, there is a decrease in conductivity while oxygen partial pressure decreases; and there is also the appearance of a semi-circle for lower oxygen partial pressures. For oxygen partial pressure approximately 0.21 atm, conductivity is 0.019 S/cm, but when oxygen partial pressure is decreased to 10⁻²⁴ atm conductivity decreases to 0.011 S/cm. AC impedance measurements as a function of annealing time at 600 °C were performed. Total conductivity is fairly stable, for all compositions, until 1800 hours but after this time, conductivity slowly decreases. Some compositions show a second semi-circle in the AC impedance spectra, either from the beginning, time equals 0 hours, or after some working hours. Here, the changes in conduction and conduction processes with time are discussed.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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