The performance of solid oxide cells is known to be dependent upon the density of three phase boundaries (TPB), but the potential for improving their effective electrocatalytic activity by morphological adjustments is imprecisely known. A spilling algorithm was developed to characterize the surfaces available for diffusion at TPBs. It scans each slice in a 3-D imaging dataset to measure the interfaces between the solid and the pore phases at each TPB. Because of the stereological approach, these surfaces are defined as "available lengths" (L-A). The measurement was tested on artificial packed spheres structures with controlled properties and a percolation theory-based model before application to a real Ni-YSZ. The L-A distributions cover 2 orders of magnitude. The subset shorter than the extent of diffusion profiles reported in the literature is in the range of 3% and 20% for Ni and YSZ, respectively, suggesting possible limitations of their effective electrocatalytic properties. The average L-A is larger on YSZ than on Ni, which is a trend opposite to the phase diameter. The available length analysis revealed microstructural characteristics that stem from the manufacturing route and cannot be identified by the inspection of standard metric and topological properties. A strong correlation between the available length and the extension of TPB lines is observed for Ni but not for YSZ, despite the predominance of convex shapes, which likely originates from the Ni reduction. This suggests possibilities for controlling the available length by the manufacturing route, depending specifically on the electrocatalytic properties of the phases in composite materials. (C) 2019 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd.