Electrophoretically deposited copper manganese spinel protective coatings on metallic interconnects for prevention of Cr-poisoning in solid oxide fuel cells
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Metallic interconnects in intermediate temperature solid oxide fuel cells (IT-SOFC) stacks form Cr2O3 scales on their surface. Such oxide scales can be further oxidized to Cr6+ containing gaseous species that migrate and deposit at the cathode triple phase boundaries, causing significant degradation in the performance of the SOFCs. This phenomenon is termed as ‘Cr-poisoning’. A solution to this problem is the application of coatings on the interconnects that act as a diffusion barrier to Cr migration. Two different Cu/Mn spinel compositions, Cu1.3Mn1.7O4 and CuMn1.8O4, were studied as coating materials. Dense coatings were deposited on both flat plates and meshes by electrophoretic deposition (EPD) followed by subsequent thermo-mechanical or thermal densification steps. At room temperature, Cu1.3Mn1.7O4 coatings were found to have a mixture of CuO and spinel phases, while CuMn1.8O4 coatings were found to have a mixture of Mn3O4 and spinel phases. However, CuMn1.8O4 is a pure spinel phase between 750 °C and 850 °C. After densification processing and high temperature oxidation, a Cr2O3 layer was formed at the coating/alloy interface, which partially reacted with the spinel coatings to form a dense cubic spinel layer of the general composition (Cu,Mn,Cr)3-xO4. In addition, Cr-rich precipitates, formed in the dense layer close to coating/alloy interface. It is believed that these are Cr2O3 precipitates, formed when the solubility of Cr in the spinel phase is reached. Solubility experiments using powders showed that 1 mole of CuMn1.8O4 can effectively getter 1.83 moles of Cr2O3 at 800°C. Electrical conductivity of (Cu,Mn,Cr)3-xO4 was found to be at least two orders of magnitude higher than that of Cr2O3. The coatings acted as an effective Cr getter whose lifetime depends on the oxidation temperature, coating thickness, and the overall porosity in the coating. In-cell electrochemical testing showed that the CuMn1.8O4 coatings on Crofer 22 APU meshes performed significantly better than commercial Cu/Mn spinel coatings. The CuMn1.8O4 coatings gettered Cr effectively for 12 days at 800 ºC, leading to no performance loss of the cell due to Cr-poisoning. Significantly longer lifetime can be achieved at 750 ºC or lower, which is the target operational temperature regime of IT-SOFCs.