Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Materials Science and Engineering


Anthony Petric


Gianluigi Botton



Committee Member

Gary Purdy


The microstructure of the ZEBRA cells was examined at different cycle lifetimes. Various methods of sample preparation were used to remove the NaAlCl4 electrolyte and expose the cathode microstructure. Features such as layered NiCl2 crystals, large NaCl grains and needle-like FeCl2 phases were observed by SEM. The results indicate that nickel particles grow in size with age of the cell. Moreover, the presence of both Na6FeCl8 and NiAl2Cl8 phases was confirmed by XRD. Thermodynamic modeling was used to predict the phases expected when a cell has undergone overcharge or overdischarge during cycling. It is postulated that some phases observed in the cathode at room temperature may be artifacts due to transformations that occur during cooling and do not exist at the operating temperature.

The presence of isolated nickel particles within the cathode was confirmed by SEM and FIB techniques. Furthermore, the conductivity of the NaAlCl4 electrolyte was measured at high temperatures and various additives were used to make the electrolyte a mixed ionic-electronic conductor.

A special cell was designed to measure the conductivity of hygroscopic and volatile electrolyte at high temperatures. The best conductivity was obtained when using 0.2 mole fraction Bi as an additive to the NbCl5+NaAlCl4 mixture (Nb:Na=0.3, Bi:Nb=0.2). The conductivity values were doubled between 190 and 500˚C. The DC measurements confirm the presence of electronic conductivity in Bi+NbCl5+NaAlCl4 mixtures. In addition, the effect of NaF and Na2S on the conductivity of the NaAlCl4 electrolyte was measured.

McMaster University Library

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