Daniel Monteiro Cunha

, PhD

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Lithium-ion batteries are the primary power source for many applications, but none of the current devices can fully satisfy all the projected energy storage needs. Common rechargeable batteries are based on liquid electrolytes, which limit their design and safety. Therefore, the need for all-solid-state micro-batteries arises, showing enhanced safety, volumetric energy/power density and chemical stability. Planar 2D solid-state thin-film batteries exhibit undesirable energy vs power balance, which can be improved by applying 3D geometries, increasing the internal surface area.

Vertically aligned nanocomposite (VAN) thin films have been developed as a new materials’ platform for creating self-assembled device architectures and multi functionalities. They show a wide range of attributes arising from the strong interplay among the materials’ properties. Epitaxial VANs are self-assembled through pulsed laser deposition (PLD), without control of the deposition sequence, required for planar multilayer films. Although various epitaxial VANs have been studied in the last decade, lithium-based VANs have yet to be fully explored. 

Even though lithium-based self-assembled VANs have been demonstrated, further aspects of these complex structures need to be investigated. The VAN research is divided into three main fields:

Controlled fabrication of lithium-based nanocomposites through self-assembly

The self-assembly procedure was recently applied for the first time with lithium-containing materials to create electrode/electrolyte nanocomposites deposited on crystalline substrates by PLD. A further study has to be carried out to understand the control over the crystallographic properties of VAN thin films and how different growth conditions would influence the crystal structure, morphology, composition, and performance of the nanopillars and matrix.

Kinetic Monte-Carlo simulations of VAN growth

To predict the formation of VAN structures and analyse the influence of temperature and deposition rate on the morphology evolution of these nanocomposites, a KMCS model is employed. The model allows the study of complex systems and the compatibility of different materials, using activation energies obtained experimentally and with minimum restrictions for hopping directions.

Nanoscale mapping of local electrochemical behaviour in nanocomposites

Advanced Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM) techniques allow the measurement of electrochemistry on the nanoscale, which can be used to elucidate structure/function relationships in battery materials with exceptional resolution. To achieve insight into the non-uniform distribution of lithium activity at the device level, various SPM techniques can be applied, e.g. FORC-IV. These multidimensional SPM methods can explain the conduction mechanisms that rule the electrochemistry in the nanoscale.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy


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