Moving towards a more electrified world presents considerable energy storage challenges. Amongst these, the development of low cost, durable, high energy density, safe batteries is paramount for delivery of an all-electric vehicle market. A major theme of our research is to develop novel, facile routes to functional materials using our expertise in solid state and wet chemical synthetic methods to provide new battery electrodes and electrolytes across a range of battery chemistries. At the Energy Storage Research Centre (ESRC) at Sheffield, we apply a comprehensive range of lab- and synchrotron-based techniques to fully interrogate these materials to elucidate their structure and morphology, investigate their physical and dynamic properties and evaluate their electrochemical performance. Our current research in this area are detailed below. Please see our publication link for our published works in these areas.
High nickel-content electrodes for Li-ion batteries
The benefits of moving to high nickel-content electrodes include potentially higher energy densities and reducing the cobalt content, which addresses the ethical implications and cost associated with this metal. Our group work on the synthesis of micron and nanosized NMC variants. Together with our collaborators in the Faraday Institution Degradation Fast Start project, we investigate the degradation mechanisms in these materials through a holistic approach and design methodologies to mitigate those deleterious effects.
Next generation cathode materials for Li-ion batteries
We are interested in new electrode architectures that enhance long-term performance and durability. Our group has experience in core-shell structures, faceted particles and composite materials. We are developing new synthetic strategies for garnering control over particle morphology to interrogate the effect this has on electrochemical performance. We also investigate stoichiometries beyond current cathodes (e.g. beyond higher nickel content cathodes, disordered materials, polyanionic and high Li content cathodes), in addition to coating strategies for electrode particles.
New materials for safer all solid-state batteries
Current batteries rely on flammable organic electrolytes that are potentially hazardous and limit performance. Research in the Corr group is ongoing to develop new solid ceramic electrolytes which present more stable alternatives and display high ionic conductivities. Classes of materials we currently study include perovskites, garnets, NASICONS and agyrodites.
Developing microwave approaches to battery materials
Post-processing of novel metallorganic precursors can allow for the preparation of nanostructured materials. By careful design of these starting materials, nanoparticles with specific properties may be tailored. This not only allows for the development of interesting chemical routes, but opens up a ‘bottom-up’ design approach to new materials. Our group have a particular interest in the design of heterometallic precursors which afford us the opportunity to tune stoichiometries and resulting particle shape and investigate the effect these have on battery performance.
Chemistries beyond Li-ion
Magnesium-ion (Mg-ion) batteries represent a potentially transformative approach to current electrochemical energy storage technologies yet their translation to market remains hindered due to a lack of appropriate candidate cathode materials. Our group is developing new Mg-ion cathode materials, in combination with new electrolyte systems. We employ both ex situ and in operando characterisation techniques to try to fully understand the complex structural and dynamical transformations ongoing in Mg cathodes, which can inform our synthetic strategies.