Materials innovation for energy applications and extreme environments


Global solutions for electrical energy storage and energy conversion issues rely on materials designed to be durable electrodes and active catalysts. Issues of electrode stability, chemical reversibility, and catalyst poisoning will remain a challenge. Design solutions stem from studying dynamic surface and interfacial chemistry and structure in these materials using operando local structural probes. The Doan-Nguyen Group’s research combines smart design, solution-phase and solid-state synthesis, and novel local structure probes of materials to understand how structural changes at the atomic scale propagate to functional performance. Functional properties of these materials are often not well understood from a structural perspective. Structure-property relations of materials span multiple length scales, requiring a repertoire of emerging techniques to probe the local and long-range chemical and structural environments.

Solid Electrolytes

To make batteries safer and to increase energy density, we aim to supplant conventional liquid electrolytes with inorganic solid electrolytes. The road map for this work includes investigating fundamental structure-property relations of new inorganic solid electrolytes and chemical interactions with both the cathode and anode. Work in this area will provide foundational knowledge in designing and synthesis new solid electrolytes with high ionic conductivity capable of competing with liquid electrolytes. This project involves solid state and liquid phase synthesis, local structure characterization, and electrochemical testing.

Electrode/Electrolyte Interfaces

Novel active electrode materials are investigated to elucidate fundamental mechanisms of charge storage. This project involves synthesis and advanced characterization of electrode materials for Li-ion and beyond Li-ion batteries. In particular, we investigate how morphology of electrode materials interact with electrolytes to enhance chemical stability and cyclability.

Quantum Materials

Compounds with topologically protected states are an emerging class materials for quantum information science (QIS). This project involves the synthesis and screening algorithm development of new quantum materials. We investigate how crystal symmetry relate to magnetic properties for predicting materials with non-trivial topological properties.

Polymer Derived Nanocomposites

Advancements in aerospace materials capable of high-temperature operations require innovations in new polymer-derived ceramic (PDC) nanocomposites with improved electrical properties and controlled microstructure design. To advance new design rules for preceramic polymer nanocomposites, we need to understand the chemistry and local structure defects at the interfaces between filler and matrix. The aims of this project are (1) to design electrically switchable PDCs by using nanofillers with stimuli-responsive electrical conductivity and (2) establish design rules for polymer precursors to control nanocomposite structure and properties.