Do Fancy Materials Mean that Batteries and Fuel Cells Automatically Work Better?
Two Short Stories in Materials and Electrode Engineering
Dr. William E. Mustain
Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
University of South Carolina
In recent years, the desire to design, create and/or discover advanced functional nanomaterials has changed the way that faculty members and graduate students approach engineering research. Though there are many research areas where these materials can (and likely will) make a significant impact, the truth is that in most disciplines, materials with highly complex structures remain on the fringes of the technology. In some cases, these nanostructured materials require highly complex, costly synthesis procedures that do not scale well. There are also countless examples in the literature where the material of interest performs very well using model systems, but there are significant difficulties in transitioning the material to the real reacting environment. This is not to say that structure, or more specifically nanostructured materials, should not be investigated – in fact, far from it! What it does mean is that we must be careful to understand that structure is one variable and often times there are other fundamental (surface composition, electronic mobility, thermodynamic barriers, etc) and engineering (porosity, mass transport, etc.) properties that drive behavior in complex environments.
In this talk, two vignettes will be presented. The first report will detail the adoption of transition metal oxides as the active material at the lithium ion battery anode. Discussion will center around i) initial efforts in materials design that were ultimately unfruitful (both in the Mustain lab and the literature) and the search for variables that controlled high capacity and capacity retention, ii) difficulties in transitioning metal oxides from half cell to full cell formats, and iii) the renewed importance of material design and geometry in the work – and the new challenges with scaling existing approaches. The second story will discuss the road to achieving high performing anion exchange membrane fuel cells. In this work, we were able to show that without any new materials that it was possible to both improve the performance of these cells by 10x (defining a new state-of-the-art in the process) as well as enable 100’s of hours of stable operation. For more information about this project and the rest of our group, please visit https://www.mustainlab.com
William (Bill) Mustain is a Full Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of South Carolina. In 2017, Professor Mustain moved to USC from the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut where he was an Associate Professor and the United Technologies Corporation Professor of Engineering Innovation. He joined UConn as an Assistant Professor in 2008, and was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor in 2013. Over the past fourteen years, Professor Mustain has worked in several areas related to electrochemical energy generation and storage including: high capacity materials for Li-ion batteries, catalysts and supports for proton exchange membrane and anion exchange membrane fuel cells and electrolyzers, electrochemical synthesis of fuels, electrochemical control of biological systems, improving the stability and reversibility of materials in alkaline electrochemical cells, the purposeful use of carbonates in low temperature electrochemical systems, and the electrochemical capture and utilization of CO2. Professor Mustain has been the PI or Co-PI on approximately $7.5M of externally funded research projects. He has published over 80 peer reviewed articles to date and has over 100 invited and conference talks. He also has authored three book chapters and three pending US patents. He has been the recipient of several awards including the U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Award (2013), Connecticut Quality Improvement Platinum Award (2014), Supramaniam Srinivasan Young Investigator Award (Awarded by the Energy Technology Division of the Electrochemical Society, 2014), Illinois Institute of Technology Young Alumnus Award (2009), UConn Chemical Engineering Faculty of the Year Award (2017) and Fulbright Scholar Fellowship (2015-2016).
Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 2:00pm to 3:00pm
Earle Hall, 100
206 S. Palmetto Blvd., Clemson, SC 29634