A grand challenge of 21st century will be the development of efficient and sustainable means of energy conversion, distribution, and storage on a global scale. Energy is of central importance to society and the abundance, availability, and affordability of liquid fossil fuels has been a key progress driver over the past century. However, depleting fossil energy, increasing global population, improving living standards in large population centers, and growing concerns about climate change and air quality, necessitate the development of safe, clean, and sustainable alternative energy systems that can meet the demands of the next 50+ years. Electrochemical energy storage and conversion will play a key role in any future scenario, especially for transportation and bulk electricity generation. As compared to combustion processes, electrochemical processes offer higher intrinsic conversion efficiencies, milder operating conditions, and greatly reduced concerns for air quality and climate change. Moreover, electrochemical systems have tremendous potential to enable new high-value services ranging from longer lasting sensors and wearable electronics to cheaper electric vehicles with increased driving range to renewables integration and clean power for the electric grid. Unfortunately, to date, many of these systems lack the power/energy density, cost-effectiveness, and operating lifetime to enable these new applications or to displace present fossil-based technologies.
Our research group focuses on advancing the science and engineering of high-performance, robust, and economical electrochemical systems. We employ microfluidic platforms and synchrotron-based imaging approaches, in combination with more traditional lab-scale analytical techniques, to understand the fundamental processes that limit the present systems. We are particularly interested in understanding the interplay between kinetic, transport, and degradation phenomena under realistic operating conditions. Then, based on this knowledge, we use engineering principles to design and evaluate electrochemically-active materials and to conceptualize and develop new electrochemical processes and systems.
Our research approach is broadly applicable, but we are presently focused on the following topics:
High Energy Low Cost Redox Flow Batteries: Enabling grid connected storage through new chemistries and architectures
Carbon Dioxide Utilization: Developing electrocatalysts and electrolyzers to efficiently convert CO2 into fuels and chemicals
Biomass Upgrading: Exploring electrochemical routes to valorize biomass-derived compounds
Cell Design and Prototyping: Advancing new methods for electrochemical cell design, analysis, and operation