Garcia-Garcia, F.J., Yubero, F., González-Elipe, A.R., Lambert, R.M.,
International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 43 (2018) 885-893
Ultrathin porous solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) anodes consisting of nickel-gadolinia-doped-ceria (Ni-GDC) cermets with a unique porous micro-columnar architecture with intimate contact between the GDC and the Ni phases were made by magnetron sputtering at an oblique deposition angle and characterised in detail by a variety of methods prior to use in hydrogen or methane-fuelled SOFCs. These Ni-GDC anodes exhibited excellent transport properties, were robust under thermal cycling and resistant to delamination from the underlying yttria-stabilised zirconia electrolyte. Similarly prepared Au-doped Ni-GDC anodes exhibited the same morphology, porosity and durability. The gold associated exclusively with the Ni component in which it was present as a surface alloy. Strikingly, whatever their treatment, a substantial amount of Ce3+ persisted in the anodes, even after operation at 800 °C under fuel cell conditions. With hydrogen as fuel, the un-doped and Au-doped Ni-GDC anodes exhibited identical electrochemical performances, comparable to that of much thicker commercial state-of-the-art Ni-GDC anodes. However, under steam reforming conditions with CH4/H2O mixtures the behaviour of the Au-doped Ni-GDC anodes were far superior, exhibiting retention of good power density and dramatically improved resistance to deactivation by carbon deposition. Thus two distinct beneficial effects contributed to overall performance: persistence of Ce3+ in the working anodes could induce a strong metal-support interaction with Ni that enhanced the catalytic oxidation of methane, while formation of a Ni–Au surface alloy that inhibited carbonisation and poisoning of the active nickel surface.