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High Capacity Cathode Materials for Next Generation Energy Storage


Energy storage devices are of increasing importance for applications in mobile electronics, hybrid electric vehicles, and can also play a critical role in renewable energy harvesting, conversion and storage. Since its commercial inception in the 1990’s, the lithium-ion battery represents the dominant energy storage technology for mobile power supply today. However, the total capacity of lithium-ion batteries is largely limited by the theoretical capacities of the cathode materials such as LiCoO2 (272 mAh g-1), and LiFePO4 (170 mAh g-1), and cannot satisfy the increasing consumer demand, thus new cathode materials with higher capacities must be explored. Two of the most promising cathode materials with significantly larger theoretical capacities are sulfur (1675 mAh g-1) and air, specifically the oxygen (3840 mAh g-1). However, the usage of either of these cathodic materials is plagued with numerous issues that must be overcome before their commercialization. In the first part of my dissertation, we investigated the usage of a three-dimensional graphene membrane for a high energy density lithium-air (Li-Air) battery in ambient condition. One of the issues with Li-Air batteries is the many side reaction that can occur during discharge in ambient condition, especially with water vapor. Using a hydrophobic tortuous three-dimensional graphene membrane we are able to inhibit the diffusion of water vapor and create a lithium-air battery that cycles over 2000 times with a capacity limited at 140 mAh g-1, over 100 cycles with a capacity limited at 1425 mAh g-1, and over 20 cycles at the high capacity of 5700 mAh g-1. In the second part of my dissertation, we investigate the usage of a three-dimensional graphene aerogel to maximize the loading of sulfur to create a freestanding electrode with high capacity for a lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery. We demonstrated that our three-dimensional graphene aerogel could sustain a loading of 95% by weight, and we achieved a capacity of 969 mAh g-1 normalized by the entire electrode with a 90% sulfur loading. In the third and final part of my dissertation, we investigate the usage of catalysts for both Li-Air, and Li-S batteries. We demonstrate how different noble metal configurations are optimal for Li-Air batteries, showcase how different metals effect the sulfur reduction reaction, and how both Pt and Mn increase the capacity of Li-S battery by interacting with the sulfur redox reactions intermediate species.

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