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Fundamental Investigations of Mechanical and Chemical Degradation Mechanisms in Lithium-Ion Battery Materials

Program Overview

Despite the rapid advances in lithium ion battery (LIB) technology in recent years, major obstacles remain for vehicular applications of LIBs.  It is widely recognized that further critical breakthroughs in the science and technology of lithium ion battery materials are necessary to develop the next generation of low-cost, long-life, higher energy density batteries for extended range electric vehicles.  The DOE EPSCoR Implementation Program at Brown University and University of Rhode Island carries out collaborative research aimed at quantitative understanding of degradation mechanisms and improving the cycle and calendar life of lithium ion battery materials.

A series of fundamental investigations are pursued on chemical and mechanical degradation mechanisms in lithium ion battery materials, which will help enable new higher capacity and higher energy electrode materials. The program encompasses critical challenges in the three major battery components: anodes, electrolytes and cathodes. Mechanical and chemical degradation of electrodes associated with large volume changes during charging and discharging is a critical factor that limits their capacity and lifetime. However, in order to predict and optimize cycle life of electrodes for a given microstructure, it is necessary to develop a quantitative understanding the degradation mechanisms. The PIs, in collaboration with our National Lab and industrial partners, address these issues at the forefront of Li-ion battery technology. The program activities are also well aligned with the State of Rhode Island’s Science and Technology (S&T) plan, which identifies energy and environment as one of the core-sectors on which the State’s knowledge economy can be built.

Controlling mechanical and chemical degradation is the primary challenge in developing the next generation of higher energy density batteries. The development of failure resistant battery microstructures will require a fundamental understanding of the evolution of stress, deformation, damage, and electrochemistry in battery materials during cyclic charging and discharging. In addition, controlling the reactions at the electrode/electrolyte interface is critical for the formation of a stable SEI layer. We study these issues using a combination of controlled experiments on model battery materials and practical composite electrodes, together with multi-scale computations. Our effort is organized into two related thrusts, the objectives of which are: (i) Experiments and multi-scale modeling to  understand deformation, mechanical behavior and evolution in practical battery microstructures during cyclic charging; (ii) Investigate the surface chemical reactions and the role of electrolyte additives on SEI formation and stability. Our investigations are carried out on electrode materials of current interest and and materials that are considered to be promising for the next generation of higher energy density LIBs.

Click on the publications link on the left for more details on the research program.

In addition to the research activities, the EPSCoR Implementation Program aims to promote battery materials research in Rhode Island through funding opportunities and undergraduate research programs. If you are a Rhode Islander and have innovative ideas on energy storage, click on the "Funding Opportunities" link on the left. If you are an undergraduate student in a Rhode Island Institution pursuing an Engineering or a Physical Sciences major and would like to get involved in energy storage research, click on "For Undergraduates" link on the left.