RRP 3: The influence of nanoarchitecture on the operation of composite electrodes

Person Responsible: Prof. Miran Gaberšček, PhD (National Institute of Chemistry)

The main goal of this project is understanding the correlation between the architecture of nanostructured electrodes and their properties. It is in essence an R&D project oriented towards basic research where the goal is to understand the phenomena, not to produce a concrete product. The project was proposed based on the several years of experience of our research group’s members in the area of preparing multiphase electrodes for various purposes: batteries, supercapacitors and PEM fuel cells (this is then where the two main CoE divisions, Hydrogen and Lithium, intertwine).
The identification of the problem: every modern electrode consists of 3-5 (nano)phases (of different types of compounds or materials), which are more or less ordered inside the electrode composite.

Each phase has a specific function. In a battery electrode composite, these are:
a) the active nanophase stores and releases lithium (in the form of ions and electrons),
b) the carbon nanophase conducts electrons,
c) the electrolyte phase conducts ions,
d) the binder binds all the solid nanophases, providing mechanical strength for the entire electrode,
e) the substrate serves as an electron tank and as the foundation that the electrode composite is applied to.

Preparing these nano-heterostructures involves addressing several problems:

a) the transport of mass and charge within such nanostructures is not yet fully explained;
b) the influence of contacts between nanophases on the transport and reaction kinetics is unclear;
c) it has not yet been determined how cyclic discharging/charging of the active phase influences the electrode composite’s nanoarchitectures (due to volume variations, side reactions, etc.),
d) it is unclear what the mass ratio, the spatial distribution of the nanophases, etc. should be in order to achieve the optimum characteristics, e.g. the maximum power at the given energy density, etc.
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