Designing a stretchable, self-healing battery

Associate Professor Matthew Panzer and Ph.D. alumnus Anthony D’Angelo recently published research focused on the design of stretchable, self-healing, lithium-based battery electrolytes.
Headshot composite of Associate Professor Matthew Panzer and Ph.D. alumnus Anthony D'Angelo, each smiling at camera
Associate Professor Matthew Panzer (left) and Ph.D. alum Anthony D'Angelo, EG18 (right).

By Joel Lima, E21

The Green Energy and Nanostructured Electronics Lab has long focused on the use of nanoscale materials to improve the use and storage of electrical energy in a sustainable and responsible way. In a study recently published in Chemistry of Materials, Associate Professor Matthew Panzer and alumnus Anthony D’Angelo, EG18, investigate an emerging class of gels featuring ion-dense lithium-containing electrolytes, called solvate ionic liquids, with many desirable attributes for lithium-based electrochemical energy storage.

Solvate ionic liquids (SILs) are a subclass of ion-dense lithium-containing electrolytes that have been growing in research popularity. SILs are known for maintaining the benefits of conventional ionic liquid/lithium salt solutions (moderate room temperature ionic conductivity, high electrochemical stability, and enhanced safety qualities), but are comprised of readily available and low-cost reagents. SIL-based gel electrolytes (solvate ionogels) also display flexible mechanical properties, making them a good candidate for self-healing, stretchable, wearable energy storage devices. This means that they are more viable for commercialization as well. In the study, Panzer and D’Angelo investigated the creation of solvate ionogels using varying ratios of two zwitterionic co-monomers to form polymer-supported composite electrolyte materials.

Panzer and D’Angelo’s investigation led them to a novel class of gel electrolytes with widely tunable mechanical properties and high room temperature ionic conductivities. The electrolytes exhibited good room temperature ionic conductivity, high stretchability, and self-healing properties. The researchers hypothesize that specific ion-polymer interactions give the gel its self-healing and highly deformable qualities, and can be used to control the range of gel mechanical properties while leaving the electrochemical properties relatively unchanged. This leads the researchers to believe that solvate ionogels may be promising materials for realizing safer solid state Li-based batteries having high flexibility, stretchability, and a capacity to self-heal in future wearable devices.

Read more about this research from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering in Chemistry of Materials.