Study of solid oxide fuel cell interconnects, protective coatings and advanced physical vapor deposition techniques
Gannon, Paul Edward
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High energy conversion efficiency, decreased environmentally-sensitive emissions and fuel flexibility have attracted increasing attention toward solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) systems for stationary, transportation and portable power generation. Critical durability and cost issues, however, continue to impede wide-spread deployment. Many intermediate temperature (600-800°C) planar SOFC systems employ metallic alloy interconnect components, which physically connect individual fuel cells into electric series, facilitate gas distribution to appropriate SOFC electrode chambers (fuel/anode and oxidant[air]/cathode) and provide SOFC stack mechanical support. These demanding multifunctional requirements challenge commercially-available and inexpensive metallic alloys due to corrosion and related effects. Many ongoing investigations are aimed at enabling inexpensive metallic alloys (via bulk and/or surface modifications) as SOFC interconnects (SOFC(IC)s). In this study, two advanced physical vapor deposition (PVD) techniques: large area filtered vacuum arc deposition (LAFAD), and filtered arc plasma-assisted electron beam PVD (FA-EBPVD) were used to deposit a wide-variety of protective nanocomposite (amorphous/nanocrystalline) ceramic thin-film (<5micron) coatings on commercial and specialty stainless steels with different surface finishes. Both bare and coated steel specimens were subjected to SOFC(IC)-relevant exposures and evaluated using complimentary surface analysis techniques. Significant improvements were observed under simulated SOFC(IC) exposures with many coated specimens at ~800°C relative to uncoated specimens: stable surface morphology; low area specific resistance (ASR <100mOmega x cm 2 >1,000 hours); and, dramatically reduced Cr volatility (>30-fold). Analyses and discussions of SOFC(IC) corrosion, advanced PVD processes and protective coating behavior are intended to advance understanding and accelerate the development of durable and commercially-viable SOFC systems.