Understanding battery chemistry with in-situ electron microscopy

Time sequence TEM during reaction

Time sequence TEM during reaction

Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionised the way we think of energy storage, allowing for powerful devices that fit the palm of our hands, and massive battery arrays to supplement intermittent renewables. However there are fundamental limitations; the recent high profile fires that occurred in the Samsung Galaxy Note phones, and the 2013 grounding of the Boeing Dreamliner fleet, both illustrate this. The materials failures that occurred in these batteries risk becoming increasingly prevalent as we push Li-ion batteries to their maximum potential. New battery systems will be needed, such as Na-ion or Li-air, and a more fundamental understanding of the materials degradation mechanisms will be required to prevent failure.

Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) permits the characterisation of a material’s structure down to the atomic level, along with its chemical constitution by spectroscopy. TEM has been around for many years, but recent advances have seen the profile of this venerable technique rise dramatically, with a 2017 Nobel Prize awarded for its application to biological systems. Using TEM to aid the understanding of battery chemistry has been historically difficult, as most battery chemistry occurs in solution. However, recent developments now allow for liquid phases to be studied within the TEM, permitting an unprecedented insight into the processes that occur in a battery during operation. The student, working with the world-leading battery and electron microscopy communities within the Materials Department, will harness TEM to understand the fundamental chemical and materials processes that occur in batteries.

This EPSRC-funded 3.5 year DPhil in Materials DTP studentship will provide full fees and maintenance for a student with home fee status (this status includes an EU student who has spent the previous three years (or more) in the UK undertaking undergraduate study). Candidates with EU fee status are eligible for a fees-only award, but normally would have to provide funding for their living costs from another source such as personal funds or a scholarship. The stipend will be at least £16,009 per year. Information on fee status can be found at http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/fees-and-funding/fees-and-other-charges.

Candidates are considered in the January 2020 admissions cycle which has an application deadline of 24 January 2020.

Any questions concerning the project can be addressed to Dr Alex Robertson (alex.robertson@materials.ox.ac.uk). General enquiries on how to apply can be made by e mail to graduate.admissions@materials.ox.ac.uk. You must complete the standard Oxford University Application for Graduate Studies. Further information and an electronic copy of the application form can be found at http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/postgraduate_courses/apply/index.html.

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