Oxides are widely used for energy applications, as solid electrolytes in various solid oxide fuel cell devices or as catalysts (often associated with noble metal particles) for numerous reactions involving oxidation or reduction. Defects are the major factors governing the efficiency of a given oxide for the above applications. In this paper, the common defects in oxide systems and external factors influencing the defect concentration and distribution are presented, with special emphasis on ceria (CeO2) based materials. It is shown that the behavior of a variety of oxide systems with respect to properties relevant for energy applications (conductivity and catalytic activity) can be rationalized by general considerations about the type and concentration of defects in the specific system. A new method based on transmission electron microscopy (TEM), recently reported by the authors for mapping space charge defects and measuring space charge potentials, is shown to be of potential importance for understanding conductivity mechanisms in oxides. The influence of defects on gas-surface reactions is exemplified on the interaction of CO2 and H2O with ceria, by correlating between the defect distribution in the material and its adsorption capacity or splitting efficiency.
- ionic conductivity
- space charge