A first-principles study on divergent reactions of using a Sr3Fe2O7 cathode in both oxygen ion conducting and proton conducting solid oxide fuel cells

Wenzhou Tan, Daoming Huan, Wenqiang Yang, Nai Shi, Wanhua Wang, Ranran Peng, Xiaojun Wu, Yalin Lu

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Exploring mechanisms for sluggish cathode reactions is of great importance for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), which will benefit the development of suitable cathode materials and then accelerate cathode reaction rates. Moreover, possible reaction mechanisms for one cathode should be different when operating in oxygen ion conducting SOFCs (O-SOFC) and in proton conducting SOFCs (P-SOFCs), and therefore, they lead to different reaction rates. In this work, a Ruddlesden-Popper (R-P) oxide, Sr3Fe2O7 (SFO), was selected as a promising cathode for both O-SOFCs and P-SOFCs. Using the first-principles approach, a microscopic understanding of the O2 reactions over this cathode surface was investigated operating in both cells. Compared with La0.5Sr0.5Co0.25Fe0.75O3 (LSCF), the low formation energies of oxygen vacancies and low migration energy barriers for oxygen ions in SFO make oxygen conduction more preferable which is essential for cathode reactions in O-SOFCs. Nevertheless, a large energy barrier (2.28 eV) is predicted for oxygen dissociation reaction over the SFO (001) surface, while there is a zero barrier over the LSCF (001) surface. This result clearly indicates that SFO shows a weaker activity toward the oxygen reduction, which may be due to the low surface energies and the specific R-P structure. Interestingly, in P-SOFCs, the presence of protons on the SFO (001) surface can largely depress the energy barriers to around 1.46-1.58 eV. Moreover, surface protons benefit the oxygen adsorption and dissociation over the SFO (001) surface. This result together with the extremely low formation energies and migration energy barriers for protons seem to suggest that SFO could work more effectively in P-SOFCs than in O-SOFCs. It's also suggested that too many protons at the SFO surface will lead to high energy barriers for the water formation process, and thus that over-ranging steam concentrations in the testing atmosphere may have a negative effect on cell performances. Our study firstly and clearly presents the different energy barriers for one cathode performing in both O- and P-SOFCs according to their different working mechanisms. The results will be helpful to find the constraints for using cathodes toward oxygen reduction reactions, and to develop effective oxide cathode materials for SOFCs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26448-26460
Number of pages13
JournalRSC Advances
Issue number47
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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