Metallic lithium is the holy grail of negative electrodes due to its highest theoretical capacity (3860 mAh/g) and most negative electrochemical potential (−3.04 V). Compared to commercial lithium-ion batteries, the utilization of metallic lithium shows great potential to meet the energy density requirements of future portable electronics and electric vehicles. However, directly using metallic lithium has considerable scientific and engineering challenges. The most fundamental scientific challenge is the lithium dendrite nucleation and growth; the scientific community is very active in developing the indispensable fundamental understanding in both liquid and, especially, solid electrolytes. From an engineering point of view, manufacture air and moisture sensitive, tens of micrometers thick Li-metal foil will inevitably increase the cost of manufacturing. Assembling cells in their discharge state, where lithium is stored in the cathode as a lithium-ion and the anode is simply made of a metal current collector foil, would improve processability, allow operation in dry-room, in principle, plate amore uniform and free from impurities.
In this project, the student will investigate the electroplating of lithium metal from both liquid organic, ionic liquids and solid electrolytes. The effect of the lithium crystallographic orientation, morphology and plating efficiency will be investigated as a function of the current collector material, temperature and pressure. Advanced electrochemical characterization, NMR, XPS and electron microscopy, both in-situ and ex-situ, are some of the techniques that the student will be trained on during the PhD studies.