What is Electrochemistry?
Electrochemistry is the study of reactions that occur as a result of the interaction between a chemical process and electrical energy. The study and understanding of these reactions offer numerous practical applications, one of which can be exemplified by rechargeable Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Within these Li-ion batteries chemical changes occur when the cell is charged and these changes are then reversed when the battery is discharged, ultimately allowing us to utilise this chemistry to store electrical energy for later use.
Researchers at the Birmingham Energy Institute are using the study of electrochemistry to design new materials, optimise existing materials and ultimately create higher density batteries.
Designing new electrolyte and electrode materials
The study of electrochemistry is providing the inspiration for researchers at the Birmingham Energy Institute to design new electrolyte and electrode materials for use in Li-ion and Sodium-ion (Na-ion) batteries. A particular strand of this research has focused on using solid state electrolyte materials to improve cell safety.
Optimising the performance of materials
By closely linking the central synchrotron and neutron diffraction facilities, our researchers have been able to improve their understanding of important structural features within new battery materials. With this information, our researchers are then able to correlate these findings with performance to help identify potential strategies to optimise the performance of the materials.
Creating higher density batteries
Researchers in the Birmingham Energy Institute are working on strategies to improve the progress towards creating batteries, that can store higher quantities of electrical energy. Such batteries are required to extend the range of electric cars.
We are also investigating changes that occur in these materials within batteries. This research will help us develop our understanding as to why some materials outperform others, while rationalising the battery degradation phenomena.
Our researchers within the Birmingham Energy Institute are using electrochemistry to overcome existing challenges facing Li-ion battery technology. These discoveries include finding ways to:
- Increase the cell capacity i.e. the amount of energy stored within the cell
- Reduce cell degradation to extend the lifetime of cells
- Improve cell safety by finding replacements to current electrolyte materials
- Progress the recycling and sustainability of battery technology, this includes the development of more Earth abundant Na-ion batteries.