The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the US Department of Energy (DOE) award the cost of research by NIU chemistry professor Tao Li, whose work could lay the groundwork for improvements in ubiquitous rechargeable batteries used in electronic devices, electric vehicles, and energy storage networks .
NSF Li awarded a grant of $271,000 over three years to characterize the transport property and microstructure of battery electrolytes. Electrolytes are chemicals essential to battery performance, as they allow electrical charges to pass between two terminals.
Lee is also a co-principal investigator in a $3 million Department of Energy grant to Argonne National Laboratory to study solid-state electrolytes in lithium batteries. Lee’s research aims to help pave the way for the development of next-generation batteries.
“There is a lot of interest in developing improved batteries as the world strives to reduce carbon emissions, including by moving from gasoline to electric vehicles,” Lee said.
The NSF grant will help us gain a better understanding of liquid electrolytes in hopes of improving the batteries of the future. But liquid electrolytes are flammable, and the DOE grant aims to develop solid-state electrolytes to improve safety and storage.”
It’s Li’s second NSF award in three years. In 2019, he received a $200,000 grant to investigate new ways to convert greenhouse gases into useful fuels.
Lee, who holds a joint NIU-Argonne National Laboratory appointment, will integrate battery research into undergraduate and graduate teaching curricula, encourage students from groups underrepresented in STEM to participate in research, and expand the impact of research through outreach activities such as workshops with school teachers Local about K-12 science education.
His research group currently includes one postdoctoral staff member, six graduate students, two former research juniors, and three current research juniors. Erik Sarnello, one of Li’s students, will graduate with a Ph.D. This semester and starting a postdoctoral position at Argonne.
Lee’s research has also been recognized internationally.
Earlier this year, he received the World Medal from the International Association for Advanced Materials (IAAM), an international non-profit organization based in Sweden. The award is given to researchers at all stages of their careers, with the goal of honoring and encouraging groundbreaking research, according to the IAAM website. As a World Medal recipient, he delivered a lecture via a webinar in mid-September as part of the IAAM Advanced Materials Lecture Series.
Li has also been invited to apply for the Eni Award 2022, a prestigious award directed to scientists and researchers around the world with a focus on issues related to energy and sustainability.