Katsuyo Thornton

L.H. and F.E. Van Vlack Professor


2022 HH Dow

T: (734) 615-1498





The solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) is one of the most promising clean energy converting devices because of its low pollutant emissions, superior operation tolerance, and high conversion efficiency. The lifetime of commercially viable SOFCs is on the order of 50,000 hours. Therefore, understanding of the degradation mechanisms of SOFCs is crucial. The microstructure of a SOFC anode coarsens to reduce surface and interfacial energies during operation. Coarsening degrades the efficiency of SOFCs because electrochemically active regions such as three-phase boundaries (TPB) decrease in size. We use a phase-field model to simulate the microstructural evolution of a three-phase anode. Important parameters, such as TPB lengths and tortuosity, and their temporal variations are obtained as a function of time. Experimentally acquired 3D reconstructions of electrodes provide the initial microstructural data. By combining experimental studies of the same system performed by our collaborators (S. Barnett, P.W. Voorhees and V. Dravid at Northwestern and S. Adler at Univ. of Washington), we aim to gain quantitative understanding of coarsening effects in SOFC electrodes through simulations.