Andrew Scott Manning

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Faculty Advisor: Jennifer Schaefer

Engineering and Characterizing Porous Polymer Morphology for Lithium-Sulfur Batteries

Scientists and engineers currently face a serious obstacle in implementing clean energy technologies: wind and solar technologies rely on uncontrollable environmental factors, so clean energy requires high performance batteries to store and discharge energy. Development of new battery chemistries is an ongoing field of research in which scientists are evaluating alternatives to traditional lithium-ion batteries. My proposed research focuses on analyzing lithium-sulfur batteries. Sulfur has been identified as an ideal source of electrons in battery chemistry for several reasons: sulfur is cheap and easy to acquire, and it has an extremely high energy density (2600 Wh kg-1). These special properties of sulfur suggest that scientists can create cheap, high energy lithium-sulfur batteries. But lithium-sulfur battery development has encountered challenges. In particular, sulfur dissolves from the cathode into the electrolyte and migrates through the battery; this “shuttle effect” of sulfur rapidly reduces battery capacity. In response, researchers have developed numerous techniques to trap sulfur in the cathode. A few researchers are currently working on one technique in which porous polymer barriers restrict sulfur migration and promote electron and lithium migration. These porous materials have the potential to greatly improve energy storage in lithium-sulfur batteries.  In my project with Professor Jennifer Schaefer, I plan to research the engineering of porous polymers in sulfur-lithium batteries.  This research project has three primary objectives. First, this project aims to learn more about porogens, small molecules that create porous structures in polymers. Second, this project will consider the production of porous polymers. Third, this project aims to learn more about ion flow and chemical transport inside of porous polymer-containing batteries.