Enhanced oxygen exchange and incorporation at surface grain boundaries on an oxide ion conductor

Joon Hyung Shim, Joong Sun Park, Timothy P. Holme, Kevin Crabb, Wonyoung Lee, Young Beom Kim, Xu Tian, Turgut M. Gür, Fritz B. Prinz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


This study reports spectrometric and spectroscopic evidence indicating a pronounced role of surface grain boundaries in enhancing oxygen incorporation on oxide ion conducting ceramic yttria stabilized zirconia (YSZ). Oxygen isotope exchange measurements were carried out using high spatial resolution (50 nm) secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) under cathodically biased conditions as well as on bare YSZ surface. Surface mapping of the 18O distribution by SIMS clearly shows high activity at surface grain boundaries, suggesting that these boundary regions provide preferential pathways for oxygen incorporation into YSZ in both cases, albeit the effect is less pronounced without bias. The results are supported by a.c. impedance spectroscopy measurements conducted on polycrystalline YSZ membranes with surface grains engineered for different sizes, which indicate that smaller grains (i.e. higher grain boundary densities) exhibit lower electrode impedances. These results open up the possibility of engineering nanostructured YSZ surfaces containing a high density of grain boundaries to achieve enhanced performance of electrochemical devices, particularly for solid oxide fuel cells operating at low temperatures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalActa Materialia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jan

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Dr. Yunbin Guan and Prof. John Eiler of the Geology Department at California Institute of Technology for their assistance and collaboration on the NanoSIMS work. T.M.G. and F.B.P. gratefully acknowledge partial support from the Center on Nanostructuring for Efficient Energy Conversion at Stanford University, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under Award No. DE-SC0001060.Financial support through an ONR (TXDAD) (N00014-08-1-0544) Grant is also gratefully acknowledged. J.S.P was partially supported by a Samsung Scholarship.


  • Grain boundary
  • Secondary ion mass spectrometry
  • Yttria stabilized zirconia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Metals and Alloys


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