Over the past decades, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) have obtained overwhelming commercial dominance in applications. As there is increasing demand for quick charge-discharge of LIBs, high-power density is extremely desirable in the design of electrode materials for the LIBs. Silica is considered to be a promising material in terms of its relatively high theoretical capacity and low discharge potential. However, several intrinsic drawbacks still need to be overcome, such as poor electrical conductivity, large volume change during the charge-discharge process and sluggish electrochemical kinetics. The common approach is to combine a carbonaceous material with silica in order to improve the electrical conductivity and to alleviate the volume change. Properly selected biomass should be an excellent natural combination of silica and carbon source.
This project is to use barley husks (BHs) as natural silica sources to create high-capacity anode for LIBs. BHs are a readily available and cheap materials and derive from a sustainable resource. The SiO2 exists in barley husks (BH-SiO2) in the form of uniform nanoscale structure and are coated by organic carbon component. The porous structures of BH-SiO2 are formed during the natural growth process of barley that allows BHs to be processed into a promising SiO2-based anode material.
The student working in this project is expected to synthesize the anode materials from BHs, assemble LIBs with an established production line, and investigate the battery performances. The initial training on synthesis and characterization will be provided in-house. Materials characterisation, such as SEM, TEM, XPS, XRD will be assisted by the facility platform technicians. The kinetics of lithium diffusion will be investigated with the access to Muon facility in Rutherford Appleton Lab. In addition, the School/Faculty/Norwich Research Park provides an extremely stimulating scientific environment and a chance to experience interdisciplinary association of researchers and to develop communication and collaboration skills.