Failure Mechanisms in Li- and Na-ion Conversion Electrodes

The current generation of Li-ion batteries use intercalation electrodes, such as graphite at the anode, where the Li ions physically insert themselves between the electrode layers to store charge. While stable, they are ultimately limited to relatively low specific energies. Conversion-type materials, where the Li ions are instead stored by undergoing a chemical reaction with the electrode, have significantly higher upper limits to their capacities. A major challenge with the development of practical conversion materials is their degradation over repeated charging and discharging, often undergoing fracturing due to the severe changes to their structure that occur. 

Understanding these degradation mechanisms, and thus identifying appropriately tailored strategies to mitigate their impact, is the objective of this project. The student will utilise an expansive suite of advanced characterisation techniques available at the Department to tackle this challenge, including NMR, differential electrochemical mass spectrometry, and operando electron microscopy, to investigate various approaches for promoting more robust conversion electrodes. The student will have the opportunity to gain and mature skills across materials synthesis, electrochemical measurement, and advanced materials characterisation techniques.

Transmission electron microscopy and microanalysis

 

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