Materials chemistry is a mature field, but is constantly under refinement and improvement, especially when applied to the rational design of materials. Chemical approaches to materials synthesis are uncontested in their ability to produce novel structures, and, with the aid of increasingly powerful structural characterization tools, it is probably the likeliest avenue for materials discovery – the means by which completely new science can be uncovered.
Carbon nanotubes and colloidal semiconductor nanoparticles (quantum dots) are examples where inorganic materials synthesis has played a pivotal role in advancing a field, stimulating new theory, physics and applications. However, the journey towards rational design is hardly over, and is notably much less sophisticated than organic chemistry. Scientists struggle for purity, stoichiometry, phase or shape isolation, mechanism and many additional desirable claims. In nanoscience, materials chemistry methods are attempting to find their role when compared to deposition, UHV or MBE techniques as a means towards novel device fabrication, and into a realm that will permit the approach to be described as technological. Such a worthy objective is hard won, requiring rigorous experimentation, a broad range of characterization tools, and theory to push for deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms.
We prepare nanocrystals and use them as building blocks for thin films, for studying optoelectronic properties and for device development. This methodology enables us to push toward applications that include nanophotonics, photocatalysis and energy storage. The films can be single or multicomponent and can be prepared as a series of steps nominally compatible with IC fabrication, or as radical alternatives to current fabrication methods in the spirit of self-assembly. For the former, materials chemistry techniques and structural plus properties characterization are employed. For the latter, scientific principles, theory and modeling are required to create visionary materials that may ultimately demonstrate superior performance..
In this project, the CUNY Energy Institute, in partnership with Rechargeable Battery Corporation (RBC) and Ultralife Corporation, will develop and construct a water-based flow-assisted battery for grid-scale energy storage. This novel battery starts with the same low-cost materials found in disposable consumer-grade alkaline batteries, namely zinc and manganese dioxide, and then transforms the chemistry into a long-lasting, fully-rechargeable system. CUNY has initially demonstrated a zinc and nickel oxide battery that proves the basic science behind the concept of flow-assist for enabling zinc to repeatedly store electrical energy. In this project, the team will push this approach in a new direction by replacing nickel with reversible electrodes by leveraging key material innovations by RBC. The result of this effort will be a 25kW rechargeable system that lasts for 5,000 cycles, costs under $100/kWh, and shows strong potential for scaling to megawatt-hour levels in grid-scale electric energy storage applications.
This project will develop novel nanoscale-engineered dielectrics for a new breed of capacitors that enable low-cost, efficient inverters for small grid-tied photovoltaics and solid-state lighting. The thin film capacitor structures can be printed for high throughput, low-cost microfabrication. Electronic switches and power electronic control integrated circuits are bonded onto and sealed into these capacitor films to form Metacapacitors. The resulting Metacapacitors are a high power density, low loss technology platform for load management and power conversion.
Semiconducting Nanoparticle Superlattices. Top: Structure Direction in self-assembly: theoretical space-filling curves of close packed spheres following the raios AB5, AB13 and AB2. Bottom: TEM images of the corresponding binary superlattices.