Investigation of aluminosilicate refractory for solid oxide fuel cell applications

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Engineering


Stationary solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) have been demonstrated to provide clean and reliable electricity through electro-chemical conversion of various fuel sources (CH 4 and other light hydrocarbons). To become a competitive conversion technology the costs of SOFCs must be reduced to less than $400/kW. Aluminosilicate represents a potential low cost alternative to high purity alumina for SOFC refractory applications. The objectives of this investigation are to: (1) study changes of aluminosilicate chemistry and morphology under SOFC conditions, (2) identify volatile silicon species released by aluminosilicates, (3) identify the mechanisms of aluminosilicate vapor deposition on SOFC materials, and (4) determine the effects of aluminosilicate vapors on SOFC electrochemical performance. It is shown thermodynamically and empirically that low cost aluminosilicate refractory remains chemically and thermally unstable under SOFC operating conditions between 800°C and 1000°C. Energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) of the aluminosilicate bulk and surface identified increased concentrations of silicon at the surface after exposure to SOFC gases at 1000°C for 100 hours. The presence of water vapor accelerated surface diffusion of silicon, creating a more uniform distribution. Thermodynamic equilibrium modeling showed aluminosilicate remains stable in dry air, but the introduction of water vapor indicative of actual SOFC gas streams creates low temperature (<1000°C) silicon instability due to the release of Si(OH) 4 and SiO(OH) 2. Thermal gravimetric analysis and transpiration studies identified a discrete drop in the rate of silicon volatility before reaching steady state conditions after 100-200 hours. Electron microscopy observed the preferential deposition of vapors released from aluminosilicate on yttria stabilized zirconia (YSZ) over nickel. The adsorbent consisted of alumina rich clusters enclosed in an amorphous siliceous layer. Silicon penetrated the YSZ along grain boundaries, isolating grains in an insulating glassy phase. XPS did not detect spectra shifts or peak broadening associated with formation of new Si-Zr-Y-O phases. SOFC electrochemical performance testing at 800-1000°C attributed rapid degradation (0.1% per hour) of cells exposed to aluminosilicate vapors in the fuel stream predominately to ohmic polarization. EDS identified silicon concentrations above impurity levels at the electrolyte/active anode interface.




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