The demand for rechargeable electrochemical energy storage with high specific energy (SE) and specific power (SP) is driven by drivetrain power and energy requirements in ground transportation, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), electrification of avionics, and miniaturization of consumer-electronic gadgets. Electric vehicles powered by Li-ion batteries are limited by short driving range, long recharge time and capacity fade to compete with fossil fuel-powered vehicles. Alternatives to Li-ion batteries such as supercapacitors and redox flow batteries with comparably high specific power and rapid recharge/refill have poor energy density due to self-discharge.
The scientific challenges in designing rechargeable batteries with high SE, SP and high MPMs can be understood from the mechanics of charge storage in electrode materials. It should be noted that the projected technology roadmap for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries lacks a practical solution to design batteries with high GED, SP and 100s of MPM (as shown in MPM plot). A true mass-market adoption of electric vehicles for transportation and aerial vehicles will require technologies that do not compromise on MPM.
Ongoing research in the lab address these issues by designing novel architectures for Lithium ion batteries, fundamental characterization experiments to study electrodes and looking at alternative battery chemistries.
Mechanoelectrochemistry is the study of charge and mass transport, volumetric expansion and dynamic evolution of localized stress/strain. My group has pioneered recent advances in scanning electrochemical microscopy and shear force imaging (SECM+SF imaging) through structural models of nanoelectrodes and surface-tracking techniques. These developments now enable our group to be the first to study the evolution and dynamics of ion transport into and out of cathodes and anodes for batteries. This knowledge will be essential for building high performance Li-ion batteries for aerospace and automotive applications. The SECM+SF Imaging hardware and correlated fluorescent imaging platform (SECM+SF+FL) in my group as shown in the figure below is unique to our lab. This simultaneous electrochemical, topography and optical imaging is applicable for electroactive surfaces, cells and tissues and will allow my group to collaborate with other researchers in mechanical engineering, material science, chemistry, cellular and molecular biology and play a supportive role in new materials development.