Nanoscale electrode coatings for high energy density lithium & sodium-ion batteries
Battery storage is a rapidly evolving technology and will play a pivotal role in mitigating climate change. It is clear that battery storage is essential for meeting the UK government's targets of net zero emissions by 2050, and a 68% reduction in emissions by 2030, however, the rapid deployment and wider accessibility of battery storage will strongly depend on innovations to increase their energy density and longevity substantially. The future of battery storage is enormous and will be central to revolutionising how we generate, deploy and manage energy distribution over the coming decades.
In this research project, you will investigate methods to boost the energy density and longevity of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) by coating silicon-based anode materials with ultra-thin (<5 nm) dielectric films such as silicon dioxide, silicon nitride and hafnium oxide films by plasma-enhanced atomic layer deposition (PE-ALD). This is of significant interest because silicon has an impressive storage capacity (~10x higher than that for industry-standard graphite anodes), whereby one silicon atom can bond with up to four lithium ions, while it takes six carbon atoms to bond with only one lithium ion in graphite-based anodes. However, without a protective coating, silicon anodes rapidly degrade and tend to crack and become pulverized when used in LIBs, thereby leading to a large capacity fade. It is thus pivotal to develop and apply thin film methods to terminate the dangling bonds on the silicon surface to inhibit irreversible damage to the anode material. While silicon anode materials will be the main focus of this project, the use of ALD coatings on other anode materials is extremely versatile (especially for sodium-ion batteries, SIBs), and thus could open up a vast number of research directions within this project. If desirable, there are also opportunities to develop non-toxic, non-volatile electrolyte solutions for their use in LIBs and SIBs.
The University of Warwick provides an inclusive working and learning environment, recognising and respecting every individual’s differences. We welcome applications from individuals who identify with any of the protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010.