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Harnessing the Power of Plastics in Energy Storage

Speaker: Jodie Lutkenhaus, Texas A & M University
Series: CBE Departmental Seminars
Location: Elgin Room (E-Quad A224)
Date/Time: Wednesday, April 11, 2018, 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Polymers have the potential to enhance the performance and safety of lithium-ion batteries as a result of their ability to simultaneously optimize often contradictory properties in a single material. While there is great interest in developing solid polymer electrolytes in the community, we focus here entirely upon polymeric electrodes. For example, some proposed battery cathodes consist entirely of an electroactive polymer, in which the polymer stores energy by a doping / de-doping mechanism. In another example, polymeric electrode additives enhance the conductivity and the mechanical robustness of a conventional battery or capacitor electrode. However, the requirements for electroactive polymers as electrodes are quite stringent; these include electroactivity or high doping level, stability, reversibility, conductivity, and practical application at high mass loadings. Upon consideration, these requirements can be simply distilled into the fundamental chemical engineering areas of reaction kinetics and transport.

This talk will first introduce how electrochemically active polymers operate, their specific challenges, and latest advances. Then, highly flexible and mechanically tough V2O5 hybrid electrodes, enabled by an electrochemically active block copolymer, are presented. This demonstrates how a specially designed polymer binder can dramatically enhance electrode toughness and eliminate failure by pulverization, all while simultaneously conducting ions and electrons. Also, recent work in organic radical polymer batteries and their redox mechanism are highlighted. Organic radical polymers are interesting for their rapid redox kinetics, high power, and radical-based chemistry. These polymers exchange electrons and ions by a process very different from conjugated polymers such as polyaniline. The origin of this process, as well as how it may be manipulated by adjusting the polymer backbone chemistry, are explored. Finally, Kevlar aramid nanofibers and reduced graphene oxide nanosheets for super-stiff capacitors are presented. These assemble into stiff and strong electrodes, where the extensive non-covalent interactions between the two nanomaterials enhance the mechanical properties. As we look to the future, polymers may be the enabling factor towards unconventional batteries, possibly merging plastic electronics with plastic power to form a new paradigm.