MSE 298 Seminar: Using Structural Control to Improve the Performance of Energy Materials – From Nanostructured Batteries to Conducting Polymers

McDonnell Douglas Engineering Auditorium (MDEA)
Sarah H. Tolbert, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor 
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry 
Materials Science and Engineering 
University of California, Los Angeles

Abstract: Control of nanoscale structure is key to improving functionality in many new energy materials. We will begin with nanostructured electrode materials that enable fast charging for electrochemical energy storage and in the process, we will attempt to help refine our understanding of the distinction between a pseudocapacitor and a fast charging battery. We will specifically examine how a combination of short ionic diffusion lengths in nanoporous materials and a lack of first-order phase transitions can work together to reduce the diffusion constraints that limit charge/discharge speed. Charge/discharge kinetics can also be facilitated by adding electronic conductivity and to improve that, we explore how to produce high conductivity doped conjugated polymers and then to use those polymers as binder for fast charging cathode electrodes. Finally, we consider high capacity anode materials and show how nanoporous architecture can stabilize these materials against capacity fade. Here, operando transmission X-ray microscopy (TXM) is key to understanding the role of nanoscale structure. In all cases, we aim to understand how materials performance can be improved through control of static and dynamic structure.

Bio: Sarah H. Tolbert is a Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Materials Science and Engineering at UCLA. Her research focuses on controlling nanometer-scale architecture in solution-processed nanomaterials to generate unique optical, electronic, magnetic, structural and electrochemical properties. She has published over 200 scholarly research articles and has 20 patents focusing on electrochemical energy storage, organic electronics, nanomagnetics, nanoscale control of thermal conductivity and new ultra-hardmaterials. She also serves as the faculty direct for a program aimed at bringing nano-concepts to schools, students and the general public throughout the greater LA area. Professor Tolbert is the recipient of a number of awards including the American Chemical Society Henry H. Storch Award in Energy Chemistry, fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, an NSF Special Creativity Award, the ACS R.A. Glen Award and the UCLA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award. She directs the DOEEnergy Frontier Research Center on Synthetic Control Across Length-scales for Advancing Rechargeables (SCALAR).