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Student Examines Material
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Dr. Jodie Lutkenhaus and Dr. Dimitris Lagoudas

Structural energy and power systems offer both mechanical and electrochemical performance in a single multifunctional platform. These are of growing interest because they potentially offer reduction in mass and/or volume for aircraft, satellites, and ground transportation. However, there is a natural tradeoff between mechanical and energy storage properties, making it difficult to synergistically optimize both. Common approaches center on modifying battery electrodes or electrolytes with stiff fillers such as carbon or glass fibers. Here, we explore a different approach using Kevlarâaramid nanofibers (ANFs) as high stiffness fillers67-76for both the electrode and the electrolyte. ANFs are interesting for this application because they are capable of both hydrogen bonding and π-π non-covalent interactions with the battery material’s matrix. Our earlier work has shown exceptional strength for ANF/reduced graphene oxide electrodes, for example, due to these interactions76.

Research Plan:
The students’ summer activities will center on materials synthesis, electrode processing, and mechanical and electrochemical characterization. The mentoring team will consist of a graduate student, a post-doc, and Lutkenhaus and Lagoudas. At the beginning of the summer, the student will synthesize graphene, polyaniline:polyacid colloid, and Kevlar-based nanofibers. Each of these syntheses is performed in the Lutkenhaus lab on a regular basis. In early to mid-summer, the three materials will be processed together to produce the structural electrode of interest. In mid- to late-summer, the students will characterize both the electrochemical performance (capacity, energy, power) and the mechanical properties (modulus). The students will vary composition and processing technique to answer the following questions: Is there some optimum composition that provides the right balance of charge storage and mechanical robustness? How does processing (vacuum-assisted flocculation, layer-by-layer) affect physical properties and electrode morphology? What is the relationship between composition, morphology, and physical properties?