One key approach that we use involves a combinatorial synthesis approach that allows efficient screening of materials across broad and extremely complex composition spaces. Our group applies a proven method using co-precipitation reactions to make mg-scale samples which are then characterized in an automated manner with X-ray diffraction, but we are also developing high-throughput electrochemical techniques in order to characterize the vast arrays of samples in a more comprehensive manner. These techniques will allow the rapid screening of novel materials across the multi-component systems now used commercially (e.g. Li-Ni-Mn-Co-O for Li-ion batteries) as well as the materials proposed for next-generation batteries as well as technologies beyond Li-ion.
Complementary to the high-throughput approach, our group uses traditional solid-state synthesis to make bulk samples in order to study in detail the mechanisms taking place during operation of the batteries and to ensure that the results obtained on the small combinatorial samples scale up. These studies involve a wide variety of characterization techniques including X-ray photoemission spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy, DFT calculations, Mössbauer spectroscopy, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, neutron diffraction and synchrotron XRD. The vast number of experimental techniques required for such work provides students with numerous opportunities to collaborate with world-class researchers. This interdisciplinary work is extended further by also studying electronic transport and magnetic properties of key novel materials developed within the context of the battery research.