The National Science Foundation has given the University of Illinois at Chicago a $1.44 million grant to discover new two-dimensional (2D) materials that can be used to manufacture greatly improved and cheaper batteries.
Graphene being the most common of 2D materials is a very strong, flexible, lightweight and excellent conductor of electricity and heat. It is one million times thinner than paper, almost transparent and is said to be the world’s strongest material.
Following the discovery of graphene in 2004, approximately 700 2D materials are expected to be stable; many remain to be manufactured. The worldwide market for 2D materials is projected to reach $390 million within 10 years.
Amin Salehi-Khojin, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and Robert Klie, Professor of Physics, want to not only enhance the performance of 2D materials — molybdenum disulfide is a potential candidate, they believe — in a battery but to understand how they function.
We want to find new catalyst materials that can increase a battery’s efficiency significantly, not incrementally. We believe that the new materials can increase its performance for electrochemical reactions by about 1,000 times, compared to existing materials. This will be revolutionary.
Amin Salehi-Khojin, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Illinois at Chicago
Salehi-Khojin’s and Klie’s research will add 2D materials with an ionic liquid to stimulate an electrochemical reaction that can be used to produce sustainable energy, store energy, manufacture chemicals and remove pollution or contaminants from groundwater, soil, sediment or surface water.
Electrocatalysis, as used in energy storage and conversion devices such as advanced batteries, fuel cells, photovoltaics and chemical electrolyzers, is becoming an increasingly important alternative to conventional thermal catalysis. However, further improvements are needed in efficiency, cost reduction and chemical selectivity before it can be commercially marketed.
Robert Klie, Professor of Physics, University of Illinois at Chicago
The batteries, Salehi-Khojin said, can be used in a variety of ways — from operating automobiles to generating emergency power when wanted. The technology can ultimately be used in an electric grid to supply electricity from producers to consumers, he said.
During the four year grant cycle, Salehi-Khojin and Klie will be aided by Researchers at Washington University of St. Louis and Argonne National Laboratory, as well as Doctoral and Undergraduate Minority Students through UIC’s Minority Engineering Recruitment and Retention Program (MERRP) and a few High School Students.