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Lab Mission: To develop the chemistry and fundamental science needed to advance electrochemical technologies that enhance sustainability. 

motivation

Motivaton

electrochemical energy storage

The battery technology that currently dominates rechargeable energy storage applications, especially in mobile applications, is the Li-ion battery. In conventional Li-ion batteries, Li-ions shuttle, or intercalate, into solid-state host lattices at two electrodes, an anode and cathode. Upon discharge, the removal of Li+ from the anode is accompanied by oxidation of the host lattice to satisfy charge neutrality. The electrolyte separating the anode from the cathode is ionically conductive but electronically insulating forcing the freed electrons to conduct from the anode to the cathode through an external circuit, thus providing electrical energy when the circuit is closed. The opposite process occurs at the cathode where Li+ intercalation is accompanied by reduction of the host lattice. Although this process is very reversible, the capacity of Li-ion cells is inherently limited by the bulky host lattices required to support intercalation processes.

A conventional Li-ion battery contains a graphite anode, LiMO2 cathode, and an electrolyte composed of a combination of carbonate solvents with inorganic Li salts.

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Significant opportunities for new battery technologies lie in alternative chemistries that go beyond conventional intercalation mechanisms. We are interested in exploring next-generation electrochemical energy storage systems using a bottom-up approach. By first understanding the fundamental limitations and developing the structure-property relationships governing cell performance, we develop rules that inform the design of next-generation energy storage chemistries.
 
We aim to develop chemistries and materials that bypass the need for three critical elements in Li-ion batteries: Li, Ni, and Co.

CO2 reduction 

We aim to contribute to the global effort to use CO2 as a feedstock to create fuels. CO2 can be electrochemically reduced to generate so-called C2+ products that contain C-C bonds and store energy. Electrochemical CO2 reduction, however, is usually done in aqueous electrolytes and the potentials required for CO2 reduction result in the formation of several other products, including C1 products and H2 from the hydrogen evolution reaction.    
We aim to control selectivity through modifying electrolyte chemistry. 

organic electrosynthesis

The synthesis of organic compounds often involves energy input. Electrification of the organic synthesis provides routes to developing processes that can integrate with energy produced renewably in the form of electricity. While paired electrolysis is the end-goal, in which a product is being produced at both the anode and cathode, current research is focused on either anodic or cathodic synthetic reactions that require electrons to either be consumed or generated, respectively, at the other electrode called the counter electrode. The counter electrode reactions can limit the screening space for organic electrosynthesis and also affect the organic reaction itself by producing ions that participate in the reaction in solution. 
We aim to understand and control processes at metal surfaces and develop new electrode chemistries for counter electrodes. 

research themes

research themes

solid state redox chemistry

Current Li-ion batteries rely heavily on critical and/or expensive metals like Ni and Co which limits their use in high volume applications. We aim to target energy storage mechanisms that use more abundant metals, like Fe. Fe-containing materials typically have lower energy density than the Ni- and Co-containing materials due to low voltage. We overcome this challenge by targeting high capacity mechanisms that leverage anion redox beyond the traditional transition metal redox. We study anion redox in the context of both Li cathodes and Na cathodes and aim to understand both how to control anion redox processes and how anion redox affects the electronic and physical structure. We focus on anion redox in sulfides.  
 
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Dig deeper by checking out these selected publications:

   Multielectron, Cation and Anion Redox in Lithium-Rich Iron Sulfide Cathodes, JACS, 2020. [DOI]
   Controlling Covalency and Anion Redox Potentials through Anion Substitution in Li-Rich Chalcogenides, Chem. Mater., 2021. [DOI]
   An Exploration of Sulfur Redox in Lithium Battery Cathodes, JACS2022. [
DOI]
   Irreversible Anion Oxidation Leads to Dynamic Charge Compensation in Ru-Poor, Li-Rich Cathode Li2Ru0.3Mn0.7O3, ACS Energy Lett.2023,      [
DOI]

solid state ionics

Solids can conduct ions as fast as liquids can! When those solids are also electronic insulators, they can be used as electrolytes. We are interested in developing new Li-ion solid-state electrolytes that go beyond the canonical families of phases that have been studied for the last several decades. We use machine learning strategies to point us in the direction of possible new phases and then leverage solid state chemistry to tailor the materials, especially the defect chemistry, to generate superionic conductors. In addition to Li+ conducting materials, we are also developing multivalent ion conductors that will conduct divalent ions, like Mg2+, Ca2+, and Zn2+. We have had a focus on Zn2+ conductors and have developed a solid-state material that conducts Zn2+. We are also very interested in the role of both adsorbed and intercalated water in the materials on the ionics. 
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Dig deeper by checking out these selected publications:

   Solid State Divalent Ion Conductivity in ZnPS3, Chem. Mater., 2019. [DOI]
   From Solid Electrolyte to Zinc Cathode: Vanadium Substitution in ZnPS3, J. Phys.Mater.2021, [
DOI]
   Multivalent Ion Conduction in Inorganic Solids, Chem. Mater.2022[DOI]
   Identification of Potential Solid-State Li-Ion Conductors with Semi-Supervised Learning, Energy Environ. Sci., 2023
[DOI]
   Water Vapor Induced Superionic Conductivity in ZnPS3, JACS, 2023[DOI]  

metal electrodeposition and stripping

Current Li-ion batteries rely on a Li-intercalated graphite anode. We aim to develop metal anodes that have very high theoretical energy density while using abundant metals like Mg, Ca, and Zn. These metals are reactive, however, and form surface films that often shut down the electrochemistry. Much of this problem is rooted in the fundamental process of ionic conduction. The surface films are ionically insulating to the charge dense Mg2+, Ca2+, and Zn2+. Thus, we aim to both understand the fundamentals of divalent ion conduction (see ionics section above) for divalent ions and develop anodes that suppress the reactivity at the anode | electrolyte interface.  

Metal deposition and stripping is also a hallmark chemistry of sacrificial anodes for cathodic electrosynthesis. We are interested in tailoring the electrolyte solution to adjust the surface film composition and enable long-term anodic stripping. We are also modifying the surfaces of the metals to change the interphase, or the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI), and reduce reactivity. 
metal_surfaces.png
Dig deeper by checking out these selected publications:

   Activating Mg Electrolytes through Chemical Generation of Free Chloride and Removal of Trace Water, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2021.     
     [
DOI]
   A Mg-In Alloy Interphase for Mg Dendrite Suppression, J. Electrochem. Soc., 2024. [DOI]

liquid electrolyte formulation

Most electrochemical technologies rely on liquid electrolytes. In many cases, the electrolyte is considered simply as the communicator between the anode and cathode. However, the chemistry and solvation structure of the electrolyte plays a significant role in controlling the electrode | electrolyte reactivity and the reactivity of dissolved species in solution. Simple tailoring of the electrolyte chemistry can have a significant effect on the electrochemistry. We study the effect of the electrolyte on the generation of solid electrolyte interphases (SEIs) at reactive metals and the selectivity of cathodic reactions like CO2 reduction. 
Dig deeper by checking out these selected publications:

   Electrochemically Driven Cross-Electrophile Coupling of Alkyl Halides, Nature, 2022. [DOI]
   Improving the Mg Sacrificial Anode in Tetrahydrofuran for Synthetic Electrochemistry by Tailoring Electrolyte Composition, JACS Au, 

      2023. [DOI]
   Enabling Al Sacrificial Anodes in Tetrahydrofuran Electrolytes for Reductive Electrosynthesis, Chem. Sci.2023
[DOI]

centers

center for strain optimization for renewable energy
   a Science Foundation for the Energy Earthshots Center

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synthetic control across length-scales for advancing rechargeables

   a DOE EFRC

We are excited to be part of the Synthetic Control Across Length-Scales for Advancing Rechargeables (SCALAR) team! SCALAR is an Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) made up of 17 PIs from 6 universities and institutions. 

mission

To design materials, interfaces, and architectures that revolutionize the performance of energy storage systems by dramatically expanding the range of materials systems and chemistries that can be employed in next generation batteries.

 

research plan

The SCALAR center aims to rethink battery materials to take advantage of a much broader set of reactions and materials than traditional transition metal cation redox approaches. This is combined with new methods to control and characterize architectures and interfaces with the goal of bridging atomistic and nanometer length-scales in the quest to improve cycling stability and electron and ion transport over broad working ranges.

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Learn more about our research and the team here: http://www.chem.ucla.edu/scalar/

center for synthetic organic electrochemistry

   an NSF CCI

We are thrilled to be part of the Center for Synthetic Organic Electrochemistry (CSOE) team! CSOE is an Center for Chemical Innovation (CCI) made up of 15 PIs from 10 universities and institutions. 

mission

To make synthetic organic electrochemistry mainstream through the invention of enabling, green, safe, and economic new reactions, the demystification of fundamental electrochemical reactivity, vibrant partnerships with industry, education of a diverse set of scientists and engineers, and by engaging in community-wide education and outreach.

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Learn more about our research and the team here: https://cci.utah.edu

liquid sunlight alliance

   a DOE hub

We are thrilled to be part of the Liquid Sunlight Alliance (LiSA) team! LiSA is an Energy Innovation Hub made up of 38 PIs from several universities and institutions. 

mission

LiSA’s Mission is to establish the science principles by which durable coupled microenvironments can be co-designed to efficiently and selectively generate liquid fuels from sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen. These principles will guide the creation of microenvironment assemblies co-designed to harness diverse sunlight-driven phenomena with unprecedented catalytic selectivity, durability, and efficiency under a fluctuating solar resource, using pure or impure feedstocks.

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Learn more about our research and the team here: https://www.liquidsunlightalliance.org

centers
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