PhD project: Sustainable 3D bicontinuous gels for energy-storage applications

Project description

Electrochemical energy storage plays a pivotal role in any future net zero scenario, for example batteries in electric cars and grid storage for intermittent renewables like solar and wind. A novel class of soft materials called 'bijels' have promising structural and mechanical properties for energy-storage applications. Bijels were developed in the Edinburgh soft matter physics group and consist of two interpenetrating liquid channels separated by a jammed layer of nanoparticles. Bijel-based electrodes can store 1.5× more energy per unit volume at competitive power densities. Moreover, bijel-based electrolytes have competitive ionic conductivities and are mechanically 5× more robust than pellets, leading to improved cycle life. Both energy density and cycle life are crucial, for example, for batteries in electric cars. However, the unprecedented scale-up of electrochemical energy storage requires sustainable materials and, so far, bijel fabrication mostly relies on non-sustainable ingredients and processes.

In this project, you will develop bijel fabrication routes using sustainable materials and processes. If successful, it will provide proven performance benefits for battery materials in a sustainable manner. Samples will be characterized using a combination of confocal and electron microscopy, (light) scattering, and electrochemical characterization using a potentiostat. There may be opportunities to collaborate with colleagues in the Edinburgh soft matter physics group on machine learning approaches to new soft materials, as well as with (electro)chemists in the School of Chemistry.

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