Solid oxide fuel cell microstructure and performance modeling

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Title: Solid oxide fuel cell microstructure and performance modeling
Authors: Rhazaoui, Khalil
Item Type: Thesis or dissertation
Abstract: The fundamental operation of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) relies on the liberation of electrons at reaction sites within porous electrodes. These reaction sites, or triple-phase boundary (TPB) points, must be percolated to allow for reactants and products to flow to and from these sites. Due to the fact that electrochemical reactions in composite electrodes are dependent on the presence of TPB sites, a direct link exists between SOFC electrode microstructures and electrochemical performance. Recently, the development of advanced tomography and imaging techniques has allowed for this link to be better understood and quantified. This thesis presents the development of a novel effective conductivity model (ResNet) for 3D composite, anisotropic microstructures in the context of Ni-YSZ electrode characterization. The ResNet model is first used to derive the effective conductivity of simple structures, conductivities of which can be found in the literature. Good agreement was found in this initial study. The model is then used to compute the effective conductivities of more complex synthetic microstructures, comparing model outputs to those given by COMSOL Multiphysics, a commercial modeling platform. It was found that for a sufficiently high resolution, both models converge to the same results. Varying the discretization resolution allowed for an optimum discretization resolution to be determined, based on the mean particle size used for fabrication. The introduction of Volume Elements into the ResNet model is then presented, and the optimum aggregation resolution is extracted from a set of simulations. This allowed for the analysis of a real SOFC anode microstructure to be carried out, and underlined the importance of selecting a microstructure sample of a size that can be considered representative of the entire electrode. After a series of simulations on synthetically generated microstructures, several microstructural parameters are varied to carry out a sensitivity analysis on the effective conductivities and current densities of the microstructures. This analysis yielded an optimum ratio of 7 particles per structure length for microstructure size representativeness. Using the parameters derived from the studies presented in this thesis, the effective conductivities of two experimental Ni/10ScSZ anodes are extracted using the ResNet model and compared to their experimentally determined values. Excellent agreement was obtained, validating the ResNet model and associated work. In a final instance, it was shown that using the ResNet model in the electronic phase in conjunction with the VOF model developed by Golbert et al. does not yield a noticeable difference in current density output when compared to results obtained without using the ResNet. When applied to the ionic phase however, using the ResNet model in conjunction with the VOF model is found to predict as much as 50% lower computed area current densities than when the volume fraction average model is used.
Content Version: Open Access
Issue Date: Oct-2013
Date Awarded: Mar-2014
Supervisor: Brandon, Nigel
Adjiman, Claire
Sponsor/Funder: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Funder's Grant Number: EP/G030995/1
Department: Earth Science and Engineering
Publisher: Imperial College London
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Qualification Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Appears in Collections:Earth Science and Engineering PhD theses

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