Identifying the important factors governing the oxygen reduction kinetics at solid oxide fuel cell cathodes is critical for enhanced performance, particularly at reduced temperatures. In this work, a model mixed conducting perovskite materials system, SrTi1–xFexO3–δ, is selected, offering the ability to systematically control both the levels of ionic and electronic conductivity as well as the energy band structure. This, in combination with considerably simplified electrode geometry, serves to demonstrate that the rate of oxygen exchange at the surface of SrTi1–xFexO3–δ is only weakly correlated with either high electronic or ionic conductivity, in apparent contradiction with common expectations. Based on the correlation found between the position of the Fermi energy relative to the conduction band edge and the activation energy exhibited by the exchange rate constant, it is possible to confirm experimentally, for the first time, the key role that the minority electronic species play in determining the overall reaction kinetics. These observations lead to a new conceptual model describing cathode kinetics and provide guidelines for identifying cathodes with improved performance.
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