Research Highlights

Atomic-Scale Semiconductor Process Technology and Clean Hydrogen Technology Join Hands

2024-03-25 317

[The joint research team of the POSTECH and the KAIST successfully created high-performance and exceptionally durable electrodes for SOFCs through the implementation of the powder atomic layer deposition process]

Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) are widely used for energy storage, transportation, and various applications, employing solid electrolytes such as ceramics. The efficiency of these cells relies on the performance and stability of their electrodes. To enhance this efficiency, there is a requirement to fabricate electrodes with a porous structure. Unfortunately, existing technologies face challenges in achieving a uniform coating of ceramic materials within electrodes possessing intricate porous structures.

안지환 교수팀(en)A collaborative research team, comprising Professor Jihwan An and PhD candidate Sung Eun Jo from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), and Professor WooChul Jung and SungHyun Jeon from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), has successfully produced porous electrodes for SOFCs using latest semiconductor processes. This research has been recently featured as a back cover article in ‘Small Methods’, an international journal dedicated to materials science.

The process of atomic layer deposition (ALD)*1 involves depositing gaseous materials onto a substrate surface in thin, uniform atomic layers. In a recent study, Professor Jihwan An’s team, known for their prior work in enhancing the efficiency of SOFCs*2 using ALD, developed and applied a powder ALD process and equipment. This enabled them to precisely coat nano-thin films on fine powders.

The team used this process to uniformly coat a zirconium oxide (ZrO2) ceramic material onto a porous structured cathode (LSCF)*3. Unlike traditional ALD processes for semiconductors that primarily adsorb gaseous reactants onto the surface of porous structures and face limitations in penetrating complex pores, the team employed an atomic layer process on powdered electrode materials and successfully deposited these materials inside the structure. In experimental trials, the team’s electrodes demonstrated a remarkable 2.2-fold increase in the maximum power density of the cells compared to conventional ones, even in high-temperature environments (700-750°C). Furthermore, they achieved a 60% reduction in activation resistance, a factor that typically diminishes cell efficiency.

In response to this issue, the research team have developed an innovative prosthetic hand tailored for a patient who lost their thumb and index finger in a car accident. This advanced prosthesis operates by interpreting signals from the brain to the muscles through sensors. Unlike conventional prosthetics, it incorporates a wrist rotation module, enabling patients to enjoy unrestricted movement of their wrists.

Professor Jihwan An who led the research expressed, “This signifies a breakthrough in green energy systems through the application of advanced semiconductor process-based technology. Powder ALD technology holds immense potential in various applications including SOFCs, hydrogen production, and secondary battery devices such as SOECs*4.” He emphasized the team’s commitment by saying, “We will continue our research endeavors to enhance sustainable solutions for green energy.”

The research was conducted with support from the Program for Key Research Institutes for Universities and the Mid-Career Researcher Program of the National Research Foundation of Korea, and the Renewable Energy Core Technology Development Program of the Korea Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning.


1. ALD
Atomic layer deposition

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell

3. LSCF (La0.6Sr0.4Co0.2Fe0.8O3−δ)
An electrode composed of oxides of lanthanum, strontium, cobalt, and iron

Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell