One key approach that we use involves combinatorial synthesis, allowing efficient screening of materials across broad and extremely complex composition spaces. Our group develops and utilizes high-throughput synthesis reactions to make 64 milligram-scale samples simultaneously, which are then characterized in an automated manner with X-ray diffraction. In addition, we develop high-throughput electrochemical techniques in order to characterize the vast arrays of samples in a more comprehensive manner, which allows the rapid screening of novel materials across the multi-component systems of interest for advanced batteries. Our current infrastructure capacity is 128 XRD patterns per day on as little as 2 mg samples, 64 solid electrolytes tested per day and 576 electrode materials tested at once.
We complement the high-throughput approach with traditional solid-state syntheses to make bulk samples in order to study in detail the mechanisms taking place during battery operation 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, 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. We also collaborate with a number of computational groups who perform Density Functional Theory, Molecular Dynamics and Machine Learning calculations.
This interdisciplinary work is extended further by also studying electronic transport and magnetic properties using Hall measurements for selected new materials developed within the context of the combinatorial research. We also have new diverse collaborations looking at electrosynthesis of supervalent iodines, electronic transport in delafossites, and iron as a fuel source.