Hannah Collins

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Faculty Advisor: Jennifer Schaefer

Structure-Property Relationship Study of Metal Ion Transport in Ion Liquid Crystals

This project is related to the investigation of liquid crystals and solid-polymer electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries. Battery research is an important part of advancements in the fields of transportation and energy, especially for the expansion of intermittent sources of renewable energy, like wind and solar power. Energy storage with higher capacities and higher efficiencies will make these energy sources better replacements for fossil fuels that can be burned at a steady rate.  Advances in the field of solid-state electrolytes for energy storage will have huge implications for battery safety, conductivity, and energy density.
Conventional battery electrolytes utilize organic solvents that are flammable and reactive with electrode materials. The goal of the research is to identify, synthesize, and analyze liquid crystal and polymer-type materials and understand structure-property relationships for non-conventional electrolytes. These molecules would support fast ion transport mechanisms, especially at room temperature, but also be stable at a wide temperature range. Polymer solid state electrolytes usually transfer ions through segmental motion, however recent research suggests metal-containing polymers are also able to form ionic aggregates with various phase percolation geometries that facilitate transport. Current investigation in the Schaefer lab is focused on molecules with polar, high dielectric moment groups on the end of a side alkyl chain, which will ideally have positive effects on conductivity and a liquid crystal geometry that supports ion transport channels.