(6cf) Molecular and Mesoscopic Design and Understanding of Energy Materials | AIChE

(6cf) Molecular and Mesoscopic Design and Understanding of Energy Materials

The need for novel materials for energy storage and conversion has become increasingly critical as society grapples with limited fossil fuel reserves and the threat of climate change. The challenges and opportunities associated with the discovery and optimization of new energy materials are rooted in a fundamental understanding, and the subsequent control, of how material properties are related over multiple length and time scales. My future research group will seek to design, synthesize, and characterize novel materials for energy applications, with an emphasis on measuring, understanding, and controlling the crucial molecular- and meso-scale phenomena that govern their macroscopic functions. A core aspect of our research strategy will consist of detailed and quantitative characterization of relevant material properties up from the atomic length scale, pushing the limits of current methods when necessary. Among other techniques, novel solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods will be a cornerstone of such investigations, which enable atom-selective measurements of molecular-level compositions, structures, dynamics, and interactions, as well as transport processes. Multi-scale understanding, combined with a synthesis strategy emphasizing simultaneous control of chemical compositions, material structures, and interfaces, will enable us to more efficiently explore new energy materials composed of low-cost, earth-abundant elements. Initial efforts will focus on materials and devices for electrochemical energy storage, with intentions to also expand to systems for energy conversion. Thematically, we expect to contribute to a broad range of interesting and technologically important problems in chemical engineering, materials science, physical chemistry, and energy. 

Within this context, I will highlight my research experiences as a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Marie Curie postdoctoral researcher at the CNRS, France, as well as discuss my future faculty research plans. During my Ph.D., with Profs. Brad Chmelka and Todd Squires, my research broadly focused on elucidating the molecular-level origins of meso- and macro-scale structures and properties in self-assembled and/or hierarchically structured solids, such as mesostructured zeolites, organosilica nanocomposites, and elastomeric organosiloxane foams. In parallel, I modeled electrokinetic flows over surfaces with meso-scale roughness and mass transport to surface-based microfluidic sensors, establishing the dominant physics that influences the transport of ions, analyte, and fluid in distinct asymptotic regimes. At the CNRS, and with the French Network for Electrochemical Energy Storage, my research has focused on measuring disorder and transport properties in novel crystalline electrode and polymer electrolyte materials for lithium-ion batteries, including the development and application of novel solid-state NMR experiments. Collectively, these experiences provide a unique foundation for my proposed faculty research program encompassing materials for energy.