Molecular scale understanding of ionic transport and reactions inside a fuel cell and batteries


The focus of this project is on molecular scale understanding of transport processes and reactions in fuel cells and batteries. Student working on this project will learn about state-of-the-art techniques to study determine the mechanism and rate constants for these processes.

High temperature fuel cells involve transport of an ion, such as oxygen anion, through a solid electrolyte and reactions involving the transported ion. The fuel cell efficiency depends on several factors, such as the electrolyte and electrode material, defects, inherent kinetics and thermodynamics. This project involves the use of molecular scale techniques to gain insights into the mechanism of ionic transport and reactions. Such an understanding could help in (i) building fuel cell models and (ii) improving the fuel cell design.

Since the approach used is fairly general, the student working on the project will also have the option of applying these methods to other energy materials, such as for battery applications. All solid-state batteries using lithium metal as anodes are currently being explored for high power and high energy density batteries. Traditional lithium ion batteries (LIBs) using liquid electrolytes pose significant issues, e.g., the organic electrolytes are flammable and undergo degradation. These issues can be overcome using solid electrolytes such as sulfide-based glassy and glass-ceramic solid electrolytes. Such materials have shown to possess very high ionic conductivities and excellent mechanical properties. The glass structure plays a crucial role in the diffusion characteristics.

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