Electrochemical energy storage and conversion

Development of improved high-performance electrodes and electrolytes is critically important to the efficiency and overall performance of next generation energy storage and conversion applications, such as electrochemical capacitors, batteries and fuel cells for grid and distributed energy storage and conversion, electric and hybrid electric vehicles and ships, energy efficient industrial equipment and portable electronic devices.

For example, stable high capacity anodes and cathodes increase energy density of Li-ion batteries. Similarly, improvements in the electrode design for other types of batteries and supercapacitors will result in their faster charging, increased energy density, lower costs, and longer, safer operation. Further developments of coking- and contaminant-tolerant anodes for solid oxide fuel cells will make it possible for efficient and cost-effective conversion to electricity of a wide variety of fuels, including hydrogen, hydrocarbon fuels, coal gas, and bio-derived fuels. Similarly, the air-breathing cathodes critically influence the efficiency and power density of fuel cells and ultra-high energy metal-air batteries.

Energy and power density, rate capability, and cycling life of batteries, fuel cells, and supercapacitors depend critically on the structure, composition, morphology, and architecture of the electrode and electrolyte materials. However, quantifying and controlling the processing-structure-property relationships for these materials is extremely challenging.

Grand challenges facing the development of a new generation of energy storage and conversion systems include: (1) unraveling the mechanisms of surface and interfacial reactions relevant to chemical and energy transformation processes, (2) optimizing the rate of change and mass transport along surfaces, across interfaces, and through porous electrodes by design and control of mesoscale structure, (3) directing assembly of hierarchical functional materials with unique functionality,(4) understanding defect mesostructure and its effect on surface catalytic activities in fuel cells, (5) implementing predictive multiscale modeling and simulation of porous electrodes and their evolution under realistic operating conditions, and (6) expediting new materials discovery for applications by combining computation, modeling and experiments.

Faculty at Georgia Tech in MSE, ME, ChBE and other academic units have collectively developed some unique synthesis, processing, and fabrication of new electrode materials and novel structures of bio-inspired complexity and functionality.  We also developed a number of advanced in situ characterization methods for materials and devices that employ campus equipment in addition to facilities at the national laboratories, such as in situ synchrotron X-ray diffraction for batteries. We have also developed various components for multiscale modeling and simulation of charge and mass transport relevant to chemical and energy transformation processes over a wide range of length and time scales. Finally, we have developed some unique in-situ and in-operando characterization of structure, composition, and morphology of electrode materials.

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