A Quantitative Determination of Electrode Kinetics using Micropatterned Electrodes

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Koep, Erik Kenneth
Liu, Meilin
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Interfacial polarization resistances limit the performance of many thin film solid-state devices, especially at low temperatures. To improve performance, a fundamental understanding of the electrode kinetics that govern interfacial reaction rates must be developed. The goal of this work is to determine site-specific reaction mechanisms and the relative significance of various reactions in order to quantify optimum structural parameters within the cathode microstructure. Key parameters include the length of triple phase boundary (TPB), the quantity of exposed electrolyte/electrode surface, and the ratio of electrolyte to electrode material. These parameters, when studied in a specific system, can be incorporated into broader models, which will encompass the specific conductivity of each component to develop an optimized three-dimensional network. The emphasis of this work is the systematic control and manipulation of potential cathodic reaction sites in order to develop an understanding of the relative importance of specific reaction sites. Since the physical dimensions of reaction sites are relatively small, an approach has been developed that utilizes micro-fabrication (similar to that used in integrated-circuit fabrication) to produce small and highly controlled microstructures. Investigations were made into the nature and reactivity of Triple Phase Boundaries (hereafter TPB) through the use of patterned platinum electrodes since only the TPBs are active in these electrodes. After the processing details of micro-fabrication were established for the platinum electrodes, patterned Mixed-Ionic/Electronic Conducting (MIEC) electrodes were fabricated and studied using impedance spectroscopy to determine the contributions from the MIEC surface versus the TPB. Systematically changing the geometry of the MIEC electrodes (thickness and line width) allowed for the determination of the effect of ambipolar transport within the MIEC on the activity of MIEC surfaces versus the TPB. This information is critical to rational design of functionally graded electrodes (with optimal particle size, shape, porosity and conductivity). In addition to experimental studies, representative patterned electrode samples were made available for collaborative studies with surface scientists at other institutions to provide additional techniques (such as Raman Spectroscopy) on the carefully designed and controlled cathode surfaces.
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