Phase wettability and microstructural evolution in solid oxide fuel cell anode materials

Recent experimental and theoretical findings suggest that high-temperature solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) often suffer from performance degradation due to coarsening of the metallic-phase particles within the anode. In this study, we explore the feasibility of improving the microstructural stability of SOFC anode materials by tuning the contact angle between the metallic phase and electrolyte particles. To this end, a continuum diffuse-interface model is employed to capture the coarsening behavior of the metallic phase and simulate a range of equilibrium contact angles. The evolution of performance-critical, microstructural features is presented for varying degrees of phase wettability. It is found that both the density of electrochemically active triple- phase regions and contiguity of the electron-conducting phase display undesirable minima near the contact angle of conventional SOFC materials. Our results suggest that tailoring the interfacial properties of the constituent phases could lead to a significant increase in the performance and lifetime of SOFCs. 2014 Acta Materialia Inc.