The Princeton Lab for Electrochemical Energy Systems studies complex electrochemical behavior, with a current focus on energy storage systems. We are set up to create materials, fabricate devices, and characterize both with in situ, in operando, and ex situ methods
We consider not only the engineered electrochemically active material, but the context of the material. For example, more than 90% of electrochemical storage cells (batteries) contain printed or slurry cast components. Printing processes decouple materials synthesis and device fabrication, and allow for high throughput continuous manufacturing. This decoupling has allowed researchers to improve the materials used in all electrochemical cells and enabled the batteries we rely on a daily basis to be small, reliable and affordable.
However, the relationship between the processing of printed electrodes and cell performance is poorly understood at a fundamental level. Printed electrodes, at the microscale/nanoscale, are a collection of packed particles bound typically by a polymeric matrix. Intimate contact between the active particles are critical for power performance, so industries simply "squeeze and can" these electrodes to improve power performance. As applications begin to require mechanical flexibility and longer cycle life, the standard calendaring (or compression) batteries undergo may be detrimental in the long term.
We have created an environment where we can quickly synthesize, print, test, and analyze battery electrodes. With our custom fabrication equipment, microfluidic fabrication and testing equipment, and in-lab prototyping tools we can quickly iterate on designs and experiments, starting with a "shotgun" approach to complex problems and developing both variable spaces and hypotheses of interaction after a few design cycles. In practice, we have learned
- The mechanical state of a battery can be externally exploited to allow for flexible systems while maintaining the functional lifetime of the cell
- Many ways in which a standard Zn MnO2 battery can fail, a few ways in which it can be cycled over 1000 times for grid scale applications
- Doping of "inert" carbonates with elements which tend toward polymorphic structure (e.g. Mn,Fe) can enable odd and useful electrochemical activity
- Complex interactions during spray coating processes can be directed to "self stabilize", allowing for rapid fabrication of composite electrodes
- Plate metal morphology can be predictably tuned as function of electrochemical pulse potential and additive concentration
Taken together, these findings have enabled new types of batteries for grid scale and wearable applications, as well as new diagnostic measures for batteries.
The PLEES is part of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
(we're just warming up)
The lab's tooling and characterization equipment enables research and training for
- Electrochemical Materials Processing
- Electroanalytic Chemistry
- Rapid Prototyping of Microfluidic Electrochemical Cells
- Print Processing of Arbitrary Slurries/Inks
The lab is currently supported by the generosity of
- The Department of Energy's Advanced Research Project Agency (DOE ARPA-E)
- The Department of Energy Brookhaven National Laboratory LDRD
- The National Science Foundation (NSF)
- The Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment Andlinger Innovation Fund
- A gift from the XEROX Corporation
Professor Steingart is grateful for previous support and guidance from
- The National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA)
- The Department of Energy/ARPA-E (Link)
- The Department of Energy Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory LDRD
- The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (Link)
- The City College of New York 21st Century Fund