Novel ionic conductors (NIC) project

Lithium ion batteries enabled the success of portable electronics and dominate the global battery market.  The demand for high energy density batteries will further increase with the market trend towards electric vehicles and grid leveling applications. Further improvements in energy density and reduction in cost are key to enable a large scale deployment of batteries for these applications.

At high energy densities and large scale, absolute operational safety becomes a stringent requirement. Batteries using a solid state electrolyte instead of the conventional liquid electrolytes have a great potential to overcome the well-known safety challenges of traditional lithium ion batteries. However, the development of next-generation solid-state electrolytes with high ionic conductivity nearing the conductivity of liquid electrolytes represents a major scientific challenge.

Recent years witnessed promising discoveries of novel solid state ionic conductors. Fast sodium ion conductivity was reported in Na2B12H12, a compound containing large dodecahydroborates. This unexpected discovery revealed a new class of superionic conductors, for which the origin of conductivity is yet to be revealed but opens new possibilities for high conductivity.

This project aims at developing novel superionic conductors based on closo-borates M(BnHn) towards the application in high energy density batteries. Consisting entirely of low weight elements, closo-borates are ideal for applications that require high gravimetric energy density. We emphasize especially on sodium and magnesium conduction promising lower cost than lithium and in the case of divalent magnesium also higher energy densities. Nanoconfinement and ion substitution will be explored as means to alter the functional materials properties and to stabilize disordered ion conducting phases at room temperature.  The inert matrix providing nanoconfinement additionally supports the mechanical and chemical stability of the electrolyte preventing degradation during electrochemical cycling.

kick-off meeting at Empa, February 2016
from left to right: Corsin Battaglia, Jan Peter Embs, Hans Hagemann, Goran Miletić, Zbigniew Łodziana, Arndt Remhof, Tatsiana Burankova, Ruben-Simon Kühnel, Angelina Gigante, Léo Duchêne, Yigang Yan, Elsa Roedern , Romain Moury
useful links:

PSI, Laboratory for neutron scattering

Time-of-flight spectrometer for cold neutrons “FOCUS”

University of Geneva, Physical Chemistry:

FTIR spectra of borohydrides 

The Henryk Niewodniczański Institut of Nuclear Physics, Polish Academy of Sciences

DFT studies of materials related to energy 

Empa – the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Material Science and Technology

Laboratory Materials for energy conversion