Reducing the operation temperature of solid oxide fuel cells is a major challenge towards their widespread use for power generation. This has triggered an intense materials research effort involving the search for novel electrolytes with higher ionic conductivity near room temperature. Two main directions are being currently followed: the use of doping strategies for the synthesis of new bulk materials and the implementation of nanotechnology routes for the fabrication of artificial nano-structures with improved properties. In this paper, we review our recent work on solid oxide fuel cell electrolyte materials in these two directions, with special emphasis on the importance of disorder and reduced dimensionality in determining ion conductivity. Substitution of Ti for Zr in the A2Zr2yTiyO7 (A = Y, Dy, and Gd) series, directly related to yttria stabilized zirconia (a common fuel cell electrolyte), allows controlling ion mobility over wide ranges. In the second scenario we describe the strong enhancement of the conductivity occurring at the interfaces of superlattices made by alternating strontium titanate and yttria stabilized zirconia ultrathin films. We conclude that cooperative effects in oxygen dynamics play a primary role in determining ion mobility of bulk and artificially nanolayered materials and should be considered in the design of new electrolytes with enhanced conductivity.
- Fuel cells
- Solid electrolytes