Improving Power Sources for the Future
Advances in our quality of life are closely linked to the discovery of new materials. For example, laptop computer screens rely on liquid crystals to display information, semiconductors for their integrated circuits, and intercalation compounds for their batteries. Discovering materials with enhanced properties and developing better processing methods for these materials rests on advancing research in materials science.
In 1995, the development of Combinatorial Material Synthesis (CMS) revolutionized materials science research. Unlike more traditional methods, which synthesize and design new materials one by one, CMS can uncover hundreds, even thousands, of distinct compositions in a single experiment, vastly accelerating the time it takes to test new material performance and properties.
Dr. Jeffery R. Dahn, a world leader in CMS experimentation, has developed novel CMS-based processes to improve lithium-ion battery electrodes materials and fuel cell catalysts. He boasts the only laboratory in Canada and one of very few in the world equipped with an entire suite of CMS instrumentation for screening these materials. Dr. Dahn and his experienced team are now expanding their capabilities to tackle specific materials problems related to lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells, and to study other materials problems beyond these two power sources.
Lithium-ion batteries are small rechargeable power sources for electronics that store more energy per unit mass or volume than any other battery technology. The team wants to increase the energy density of these batteries so that power supplies can be further miniaturized, and improve the safety of battery cells subjected to thermal or electrical abuse in order to produce larger cells, including cells large enough to power electric vehicles.
Current fuel cell catalysts - chemicals that accelerate the reaction between oxygen, protons and electrons - generally incorporate expensive metals such as platinum. Dr. Dahn and his team will collaborate with 3M to develop novel catalysts that require fewer of these materials.