Symposium ET03—Application of Nanoscale Phenomena and Materials to Practical Electrochemical Energy Storage and Conversion
Electrochemical processes bridge electricity and chemical energy. With increasing supply of renewable electricity, it is strategically important to invent and optimize electrochemical technologies that store electricity for short term use (batteries, supercapacitors) and long term use (electrochemical synthesis of fuels). For all of these technologies, improving performance, durability and cost effectiveness has become a common focus among their growing research and development communities. Among various approaches that have been taken to address these challenges, many utilize nanoscale materials that have advantageous properties vs. the corresponding bulk analogs. Comparing nanoscale effects across different end applications can provide deep understanding of the fundamental electrochemical processes and new insights into solutions to these challenges. The goal of this symposium is to explore the common themes of nanoscale phenomena and materials in the context of electrochemical energy storage and conversion, and inspire new materials, techniques, and functions through dialog between scientists and engineers engaged in both fundamental and applied research. To achieve this goal, this symposium will be organized around three thematic aspects:
The first theme will be centered around unique properties that emerge at the nanoscale that are of use in electrochemical energy conversion and storage. For example, bulk silicon suffers from fracture problem when serving as an anode for rechargeable lithium ion battery. When smaller than ~200 nm, however, silicon becomes resilient to fracture. For electrocatalysis, the ability to control the active site structure on nanoparticle surfaces has been of great consequence for improving catalyst activity; for instance, the most active sites for electrocatalysts can be edge sites, such as for hydrogen evolution at MoS2 surfaces, and nanomaterials can be designed to have higher concentrations of these sites.
Second, advances in nanoscale materials design have been driven by various characterization techniques that allow integration of atomic and molecular processes. For example, single atom electrocatalysts have been made and studied, with the help of high-resolution electron microscopy; single-molecule fluorescence microscopy has been used to visualize individual catalytic events; and in situ atomic force microscopy has also been applied to study battery interfacial reactions. These nanoscale characterization techniques provide new insights to electrochemical processes.
Third, simulation and computation of electrochemical processes at the nanoscale has helped to accelerate the discovery of new catalysts due to molecular and atomic-scale insights. For example, theoretical understanding of nanoscale mechanics is critical for understanding fracture of rechargeable battery electrode materials and solid electrolytes. Models of diffusion of ions in nanoporous materials is critical for electrochemical capacitors. Simulation of electrocatalyst surfaces has provided clear design principles for experimental research.