Collaborative Research: Understanding and Tuning the Molecular Arrangement and Charge Storage Properties of Textured Graphene-Ionic Liquid Interface
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Non-technical summary With the ever-increasing need for electrical power on demand, next generation energy storage devices (batteries and supercapacitors) must be designed that can support higher energy densities than current technologies. Therefore, new electrolyte and electrode materials must be explored that allow for higher electrolyte packing densities. To improve electrode/electrolyte interfaces, this project, supported by the Solid State and Materials Chemistry program in the Division of Materials Research at NSF, seeks to understand how the structure of ionic liquids and their arrangement at electrode interfaces may be tuned by precisely controlling electrode geometry on the nanoscale. Single-layer graphene, a carbon-based material, just one-atom thick, which can function as a conductive electrode that is highly flexible, is used to created textured electrodes for this study. The research team investigates the influence of the electrode morphology on the organization of the ionic liquid electrolyte and how it impacts charge storage. In addition to exploring these fundamental science questions, this project supports the education and training of undergraduate and graduate students from diverse backgrounds, at the intersection of materials and surface science, contributing to the development of the energy sector work force in the U.S., by training students in cross-cutting research in a coordinated collaborative environment between the labs of the principle investigators at UIUC and TAMU. Technical summary With this grant, supported by the Solid State and Materials Chemistry program in the Division of Materials Research at NSF, the principle investigators (Espinosa-Marzal at UIUC and Batteas at TAMU) test the fundamental hypothesis that by controlling surface morphology and substrate-induced charge doping, along with the chemical composition of the ionic liquids, the local packing density of the liquid on graphene can be precisely modulated. This in turn is expected to afford better control over their charge storage properties. To fill the outlined knowledge gap, the team pursues three major lines of research. New methods to prepare graphene surfaces with precisely controlled charge doping and morphology from the atomic to the nanoscale are developed. In addition, the effects of substrate morphology and charge doping on the interfacial structure of ionic liquids and on the characteristics of the electrical double layer are investigated by Atomic Force Microscopy in an electrochemical cell. Furthermore, local and global electrochemical impedance spectroscopy are used to relate the electrical double layer to the differential capacitance of the textured interfaces. These studies allow determining the relative contributions of graphene roughness, charge doping and ionic liquid composition on the electrical double layer and its capacitance. The knowledge gained from this project is expected to enable control of the interfacial assembly of the liquids and stored charge through the modulation of the graphene texture. This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.