This research project will be a part of Zharov group effort in the area of alternative energy. As the world becomes increasingly reliant on mobile electrical power, batteries play an ever-greater role in all aspects of our life. Today's batteries are expensive, often unsafe and, in addition, too heavy to be used in portable devices that require high battery power. There is great need for batteries which do not incorporate liquid organic solvents, which could revolutionize battery technology because of their promising properties including nontoxicity, ease of preparation, stability during operation, and enhanced safety. The major limitation of solid-state batteries is their low power densities compared to those of liquid-electrolyte batteries. This is due in large part to the low ionic conductivity of the solid electrolyte.The goal of this project is to design novel nanocomposite solid polymer electrolytes, which will afford batteries with long service life and innovative functionalities. Specifically, we will prepare Li+ polymer electrolytes composed of polymers grafted on ion-conducting inorganic nanoparticles. Such electrolytes have never been synthesized. Therefore, it is essential to prepare and study these materials in terms of the effect of different polymer brush architecture, the type and content of lithium salt and the composition of the inorganic nanoparticles on the structure and ionic conductivity. We expect that these novel polymer electrolytes will possess particularly high ionic conductivity which will provide excellent performance in all-solid lithium-ion batteries.
The student will study the feasibility of synthesis of Li+-conducting ceramic nanoparticles surface-modified with cation-conducting polymer brushes. The student will prepare 30 nm lithium aluminate nanoparticles by the reported procedure that involves a sol-gel process [R. B. Khomane, A. Agrawal, and B. D. Kulkarni. Materials Letters 61, 4540 (2007)]. The surface of the nanoparticles will be aminated, followed by the attachment of initiator moieties and surface-initiated polymerization to obtain surface-grafted polymer brushes. The resulting "hairy" particles will be used to prepare ion-conductive films and their morphology and ionic conductivity will be studied as a function of nanoparticle size, polymer length and sodium salt content.The student working on the project will be guided by the PI as well as a graduate student working in this area of research. The student will be in charge of the synthesis and characterization of the new materials and will work in collaboration with the PI and a graduate student on designing experiments, performing synthesis and characterization, data interpretation and writing a paper based on the obtained results.
The student will learn a number of important techniques widely used in nanomaterials and energy research. These will include sol-gel synthesis of nanoparticles, surface modifications, polymerizations, material characterization using electron microscopy, thermogravimetric analysis and ionic conductivity characterization using electrochemical impedance spectroscopy.Besides the technical skills, the student will learn about working in a research group and working on a research project, which will include studying relevant literature, planning experiments, analyzing data, collaborating with other researchers in the lab and across campus, presenting results of the research and putting them into a scientific paper.Both the technical and broader skills acquired during the work on the project will help the student decide on their career path and will help in achieving their career goals.
College of Science
Nanotechnology Graduate Training Program
The main goal of this project in terms of mentoring is to introduce a student to scientific research in a stimulating and friendly environment, in hope that this experience will lead to life-long involvement in creative work that will make important contributions in whatever areas of science or technology the student will later choose. Therefore, the mentoring approach is to involve the student as a partner in an important, exciting and timely research project with clear research goals and both fundamental and practical expected outcomes. In addition, the project is designed so that the student will be able to achieve specific results over the summer and hopefully continue working on the project in the future. Zharov group has extensive experience mentoring undergraduate researchers in the summer via the NSF REU program and during the school year via the UROP program. Specific mentoring activities will include everyday interactions with the PI, guidance from the graduate students and facilities' personnel in lab and instrumental techniques, participation in weekly group meetings (with the expectation of presenting a short report by the end of the summer), help in preparing and presenting the report and a poster describing the results of the work, and teaching how to incorporate these results into a scientific publication. The student will also interact with the entire research group and will learn about other research projects and about career plans and opportunities from the graduate students working in the areas of nanomaterials and alternative energy.