The advent of portable electronics and renewable energy sources with intermittent production has significantly increased the demand for safe, high-energy density, and high-power energy storage materials. In the Rowan group, we are applying our broad expertise in functional polymeric materials to solve challenges ranging from redox-flow batteries for grid storage to solid-state lithium-ion batteries for portable electronics.
Redox-active insoluble particles are particularly intriguing as redox-active materials in redox flow batteries (RFB) owing to their size and shape, which prevent membrane crossover by size exclusion mechanism while simultaneously reducing electrolyte viscosity compared to soluble redox-active materials. We are focusing on synthesizing novel redox-active particles, investigating the morphological properties, and characterizing the corresponding influence on battery performance.
Current lithium battery technologies have revolutionized portable electronics, but continue to suffer from safety concerns as dendrite growth on the anode surface can lead to shorting and overheating that limit potential applications. One of the most promising solutions to this issue is to replace the flammable liquid electrolyte with a solid polymer electrolyte that can conduct ions while also suppressing dendrite growth. Many traditional ion-conducting polymers suffer from poor adhesion to the rough, porous electrode surface which leads to poor cycle life and failure. We are applying our expertise in structurally dynamic materials to develop reprocessable networks capable of stimuli-activated adhesion and ion conduction. Dynamic, ion-conducting networks could then be used as a component in replacement electrolytes that accommodate a range of uses from micro-grid storage to manned deep-space exploration.