We are a multidisciplinary team of researchers focusing on fundamental understanding of ion-containing polymers and functional soft matter for electrochemical devices and related chemical-mechanical phenomena for clean energy and environmental technologies.
Our research involves structural characterization and modeling of the transport and mechanical properties of various ion-conductive polymers and composites, and their nanostructural characterization to establish a structure/function relationship. We work closely with the members of the Energy Conversion Group on transport phenomena and energy conversion technologies, and have active collaborations between industry, academia, and national laboratories.
Research activities and interests in electrochemical energy-storage and conversion devices (e.g., fuel cells, solar-fuel generators, batteries, etc.) have been continuously increasing due to their great potential to provide clean and renewable sustainable-energy technologies for stationary, transportation, and solid-state applications. Common to all these devices is the optimization of multiple functionalities in the solid-electrolyte polymer, such as transport of ions, gases and water in a mechanically stable matrix. However, improving the transport functionality might undermine the polymer stability, and device longevity. Thus, a challenge in these devices is achieving sustainable performance in solid-state electrolytes which requires a concerted effort to meet the performance and durability demands, i.e., to improve transport without compromising mechanical integrity. This requires an understanding of how the ionomer’s transport and mechanical properties are interrelated through the interactions between chemical structure, electrochemical state, solvent uptake, deformation, and morphology. In such a complex structure, it becomes critical, yet challenging, to optimize and balance the mechanical properties that provide stability and the physiochemical properties that are critical for the performance. Such chemical-mechanical phenomena is great interest for solid-polymer electrolytes used in energy conversion and storage devices.