Tests of a Zirconium Dioxide Electrolytic Cell in a Thermionic Diode 929358

Planar electrolytic cells using partially stabilized tetragonal zirconia in polycrystalline form (TZP) were tested in vacuum and in a thermionic diode in cesium vapor.
Oxygen transmission through TZP at temperatures from 800 to 1000 K and released as O2 was observed in a vacuum system with a mass spectrometer. The work function increase of a W emitter during an oxygen release was also easily demonstrated.
The TZP cell, tested as an oxygen sensor, exhibited open circuit voltage changes, reversible with oxygen pressure variations. However, the data did not quite follow the theoretical predictions of Nernst's law.
A similar TZP cell was then attached to the collector of a thermionic diode with a cesium pressure of 0.1 torr. Emission enhancement was observed following oxygen injection into the diode: the equivalent “bare” work function reached 5.7 eV after oxygen injection.
Oxygen removal from the thermionic diode was achieved at very low cell currents. The reversibility of the TZP cell was evidenced by the near complete reversibility of the bare work function and cell voltage following incremental oxygen additions and removals. Suggestions for future work are discussed.
* This work was performed for the Innovative Science and Technology Office of the SDIO under Contract F33615-89-C-2920 with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.


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