The drive to harness alternative energy sources that avoid environmentally damaging hydrocarbon fuels has led to a global research effort into the development of new energy storage technologies. Whether it is the cars we drive, the personal electronics we use, the manufacturing or service business we work in or the way we power our houses, batteries will play a large role in all future functions of our modern life. The current research challenge is to make these batteries more efficient, more powerful, at lower cost, with less weight or with more abundant materials that have environmentally friendly processes that can also lead to more simpler recycling strategies.
Operando characterisation methods such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Helium Ion Microscopy (HIM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) have the potential to provide unique insights into the function of next generation batteries. While operando TEM methods have been demonstrated previously (Mehdi et al, Nanoletters 15, 2168 (2015)) the volume of the cell limits diffusion processes and does not permit larger scale effects to be identified. By implementing a similar operando stage in SEM/HIM, we can controllably vary the volume and diffusion of electrolyte and additives to understand the variability in structural evolution that takes place in battery cells.
In this Faraday Institution supported project, advances in electrochemical controlled SEM/HIM operando stages will be used to perform precisely calibrated 3D/4D measurements and visualise the formation of structures at the electrolyte/electrode interface on the 5-50nm length scale. By using an operando stage, it will be possible to investigate directly the effect of electrolyte depletion and diffusion by comparison to the TEM results. In addition to contributing to a correlated set of measurements, this project will evaluate the use of SEM/HIM as a more routinely available option for extensive operando battery measurements.
Please direct enquiries to Professor Nigel D. Browning on: Professor Nigel D. Browning Director, Imaging Centre at Liverpool (ICaL) University of Liverpool School of Engineering & School of Physical Sciences 506 Brodie Tower Liverpool, L69 3GQ. UK
This PhD is part of a new Faraday Institution project on the characterisation of the dynamic properties of next generation batteries and involves extensive cross disciplinary academic and industrial collaborations.
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