Achieving the sustainable interconversion of chemical and electrical energy is a defining challenge of our time. To accomplish this vision, we will develop creative new approaches for tuning molecular interactions to control ion transport and electron transfer at interfaces. Our overarching goal is to pursue fundamental breakthroughs that promise to enable next-generation energy storage devices and processes for converting carbon emissions to valuable chemicals.
We are excited about exploring new ways to understand and tune molecular level interactions to influence ion transport and electron transfer, which are essential to energy, catalysis, water security, and biology. Our approach brings together tools and concepts from colloid science, electrochemistry, and nanotechnology to enable new perspectives on creating nanoscale materials and interfaces to bring our world closer to sustainable chemical synthesis and energy supply.
Surface Forces for Electric Double Layer Structuring
Understanding how concentrated electrolytes self-assemble and structure at interfaces opens many different pathways for energy storage. Whether investigating how to reduce the thickness of the electrical double layer in capacitors or how electrostatic screening impacts plating and stripping in batteries, knowledge of the interface is key. By furthering research into the fundamentals of these physical phenomena, better guidance can be offered toward application on a larger scale. Hopefully, our group can help improve the charging rate, stability, and efficiency of energy storage systems through the questions we pose.
Illuminating Nanoscale Transport in Electrolytes to Achieve efficient Energy Storage Devices
The motion of ions in electrolytes dictates the ability for an energy storage device to rapidly charge and discharge. Furthermore, achieving ion-selective transport increases the stability of energy storage devices by mitigating concentration polarization, which is thought to lead to undesirable dendrite growth and catastrophic device failure. Our group is exploring how nanoscale phenomena such as ion-solvation, charge screening, self-assembly, and collective molecular interactions intersect to enable non-classical transport mechanisms in electrolyte systems, such as directed ion ‘hopping’. Further exploring the behaviors of many classes of materials using tools from data science will help our group identify non-classical transport mechanisms and motivate exploratory studies where key information is missing. Understanding the molecular transport mechanisms at play—and their influences on ion-mobility in non-equilibrium environments—will open doors for designing sustainable devices to meet 21st century demands for energy storage.