Impact of Sr-Containing Secondary Phases on Oxide Conductivity in Solid-Oxide Electrolyzer Cells

Andrew Rowberg, Heather Slomski, Heather Slomski, Namhoon Kim, Nicholas Strange, Brian Gorman, Sarah Shulda, David Ginley, Kyoung Kweon, Brandon Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Solid-oxide electrolyzer cells (SOECs) based on a yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) oxide electrolyte produce hydrogen from water with the assistance of excess thermal energy; however, Sr diffusion within the Gd-doped CeO2 (GDC) barrier layer during processing or operation can lead to the formation of unwanted secondary phases such as SrO and SrZrO3. To establish and compare the degree of impact of these phases on SOEC performance, we conduct first-principles calculations to study their bulk oxide conductivities and compare them to that of the YSZ electrolyte. We find that SrO has a low conductivity arising from the poor mobility and low concentration of mobile oxygen vacancies, and its presence in SOECs should therefore be avoided. SrZrO3 also has a lower oxide conductivity than YSZ; however, this discrepancy is primarily due to lower vacancy concentrations rather than low mobility. We find that sufficient levels of Y-doping on the Zr site can increase oxygen vacancy concentrations in SrZrO3 to achieve an oxide ionic conductivity on par with that of YSZ, thereby mitigating any potential deleterious effect on transport performance. Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy confirms that Y is the most common minority element present in SrZrO3 forming near the GDC-YSZ interface, alleviating concerns regarding the impact of SrZrO3 on device performance. These results from our combined computational-experimental analysis can inform future engineering strategies designed to limit the detrimental effects of Sr-induced secondary phase formation on SOEC performance.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)6464-6474
Number of pages11
JournalChemistry of Materials
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-90471


  • defects
  • diffusion
  • electrical conductivity
  • energy
  • oxides


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