Understanding the role of mesoporous Silicon in sustainable energy applications

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Chemical & Biological Engineering


EPSRC : Maximilian Yan : EP/L016818/1

Lithium-ion batteries are the battery of choice in power-hungry applications such as grid energy storage and electric cars. However, certain characteristics of this battery, including its energy density, limits the performance of the devices they are used in. For example, a full tank of petrol weighing 45 kg will give a range of 300 miles, whereas a battery will have to weigh more than 450 kg, which is why electric vehicles tend to have much lower mileage. Silicon is a material capable of storing more than ten times the energy of the currently used graphite, however, for any material to reach commercialisation it has to be manufactured at large scales. Hence, it is crucial that a material not only performs well, but can be produced in a cost-effective, sustainable manner that can easily be scaled up.

By combining our material with the process developed in Dr Dasog's group in Canada, we will be able to better understand the reaction chemistry of the energy efficient, low-temperature magnesiothermic reduction process. This will allow us to make optimisations to improve its viability for scale-up. This project will also include a modelling aspect, whereby the results from experiments will be fed into a techno-economic model, which can be used as a tool for battery manufacturers to determine the best type of silica feedstock and reduction conditions for a chosen application. As the procedure for manufacturing porous silicon is the same, the techno-economic model can be expanded to include a cost analysis for photocatalytic applications. The cost of producing porous silicon for this application can be calculated based on a given performance metric and therefore its value, using data already collected from magnesiothermic reduction experiment.


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