Successful development of world’s best performing hydrogen ion ceramic fuel cell
▲ Professor Joon Hyung Shim
Korea University Professor Joon Hyung Shim and KIST Dr. Ji-Won Sohn’s research teams successfully develop the world’s best performing hydrogen ion ceramic fuel cell; research results published in Nature Communications.
Research teams led by Korea University School of Mechanical Engineering Professor Joon Hyun Shim and Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST, President Byung Gwon Lee) High-Temperature Energy Materials Research Center’s Dr. Ji-Won Son succeeded in the thin film deposition of a chemically and mechanically stable yttrium-doped barium zirconate (Y:BaZrO3, BZY) electrolyte, resulting in the world’s best performing hydrogen ion ceramic fuel cell.
Fuel cells are environment friendly high-efficiency energy generating devices that electrochemically convert fuel directly into electricity. Because pure water is the only by-product when hydrogen fuel is used to generate electricity, fuels cells are being closely looked at as future clean energy systems. Accordingly, the application range of fuels cells is expected to be broad indeed and to include automobiles, drones, portable power supplies, and power plants.
Ceramic fuel cells, a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC), are receiving a great amount of attention as a future power source for power plants. With strong support from their governments, researchers and corporations in countries including the U.S. and Japan have been accelerating their efforts towards producing ceramic fuel cell sources for real-world applications. Conventional ceramic fuel cells use primarily an oxygen ion conducting film as an electrolyte, but its use was limited in low temperatures because its conductivity drops exponentially as the temperature decreases.
Due to that limitation, hydrogen ion conductor ceramic has recently received much attention as a replacement material for oxygen ion conductors. Because a hydrogen ion is eight times lighter than an oxygen ion, hydrogen ion ceramic’s conductivity is tens to hundreds of times higher than that of an oxygen ion ceramic. Out of all the hydrogen ion ceramics, BZY is typically known to be the one with the highest conductivity. However, BZY is difficult to synthesize as needed and has the drawback of being difficult to produce as a thin film electrolyte.
The Korea University-KIST co-research team used an optimized multilayer nanostructure support to successfully deposit a chemically and mechanically stable ultra-thin BZY electrolyte. The manufactured ultra-thin BZY-based fuel cells produced the groundbreaking result of exhibiting an approximately 10 times higher output density compared to conventional BZY-based fuel cells.
The research team explained the significance of the support. “This development of a highly efficient BZY fuel cell can be viewed as proposing a new paradigm for low temperature ceramic fuels cells. Through this, areas for application of the ceramic cell will be able to move beyond conventional distributed power plants and expand to household and mobile power sources.”
Their research was conducted with the support of the Ministry of Science, ICT Future Planning National Research Foundation (Minister Yanghee Choi)’s General Researcher Support Project, Global Frontier Research Project, KIST’s Future Source Research Project, and the Ministry of Education (Minister Junsik Lee)’s BK21 Plus Project. The research results were published in the February 23 edition of the prestigious international scientific journal, Nature Communications.